The death of a child is an event no parent can ever truly move beyond. Though grief is a lifelong process, for some a personal tragedy such as this can be a springboard to launch an organization focused on bringing attention to an important cause.
That was the case for Jill and Mazen Kamen, who officially launched the Kamen Brain Tumor Foundation last month after losing their 19-year-old son in April to brain cancer. In 2009 he had been diagnosed with a type of rapidly growing brain tumor called a high-grade astrocytoma that, despite aggressive treatment, eventually evolved into a glioblastoma — the highly malignant brain tumor that also took the lives of Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau, in 2015 and former Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009.
"The first phase is shock when your child is diagnosed," said Mazen. "You can't believe it. You start questioning the why, the where. It's like someone has hit you with a Mack truck. You have to go through that. But you also have to regroup yourself very quickly, because now you have a long, tedious road ahead. And you really have to do your homework very quickly and efficiently, if you can, to face this."
Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and deadliest of the glial tumors because the cells reproduce so rapidly. The tumor grows by turning normal brain cells into stem cells, which continuously replicate and regrow. So even if a tumor is surgically removed, it is difficult to extract every cancerous cell; any left behind will result in the growth of a new tumor. The five-year survival rate for children with glioblastoma is 25 percent.