Researcher imagines a cure

- Spring Sprint, a 2.5-or five-kilometre walk or fun run in support of the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, Sunday, May 27 at Burnaby Lake Rugby Club, 3760 Sperling Ave. Registration: 10 a.m. Start: 11 a.m. Info: www.braintumour.ca/627/spring-sprint.

IT may sound clichéd, but if there's one thing brain cancer survivor Yaron Butterfield could say to those recently diagnosed with a brain tumour, it would be to stay positive.

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"Enjoying life and being in the moment, that's kind of the best advice. . . . It ends up being so relevant when you get diagnosed with brain cancer," he says.

In February 2004, Butterfield experienced a grand mal seizure and doctors quickly diagnosed him with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer with a poor prognosis. Leading an active life - for instance, a couple days prior to his seizure he'd played the best game of rec league ice hockey of his life, and was a runner - the diagnosis shocked all those close to him.

In the roller coaster years that followed, the North Vancouver native and Sutherland grad underwent a variety of treatment and eventually his tumour shrunk. Since August 2006, he's been cancer-free.

Butterfield, 37, who now calls Vancouver home, remains dedicated to giving back, offering support in a variety of capacities to those sharing his diagnosis.

Since 2008, he's served as the co-ordinator of the Vancouver area Spring Sprint, a 2.5-or five-kilometre walk or fun run, in support of brain tumour research and patient programs through the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

According to the foundation, 27 Canadians, ranging in age from children to seniors, are diagnosed with a brain tumour daily.

"It's a very, very scary disease obviously, all cancers are, but something that's in your head, it has this other extra something. It's scary," says Butterfield.

Following his battle with brain cancer, Butterfield has resumed a normal life, able to enjoy family time, work, etc. However, he does experience days of fatigue and his hockey game, due to struggles with his balance, isn't what it used to be.

"I still play, but I'm not really a goal scorer any more," he says.

Butterfield has also found a means of giving back through his professional career.

"When I came back to work, I pushed to be involved in some research with brain cancer and luckily I was able to do that," he says.

A bioinformatics co-ordinator at the Genome Sciences Centre at B.C. Cancer Agency, Butterfield is working to change brain cancer diagnosis and treatment to reduce the grave effects.

He's helping advance the knowledge of brain cancer, including the discovery of a set of mutations in a gene called CIC that's specific to oligodendroglioma (a type of brain cancer).

He also co-chairs BrainCare B.C.'s patient and family advisory committee.

Butterfield encourages community members to attend this year's Spring Sprint, set for Sunday, May 27 at the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club. Organizers hope to raise $65,000 for the cause.

Despite the severity of the disease, the Spring Sprint is upbeat in nature, a celebration of life, honouring those fighting the disease, as well as those who've lost the battle, a chance for their family and friends to remember, says Butterfield.

"People get to meet others who've had some connection or experience through being a survivor themselves or through family members, knowing others, so it's also inspiring," he says.

For more information on the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, visit www.braintumour.ca.

emcphee@nsnews.com

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