Bill Cash is an unusual man. Not because he's a successful business executive - that's doable. He's unusual because he's a survivor of a particularly nasty cancer: glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive malignant brain tumor.
And he's even more unusual because he's helping scientists in the UAB Neuro-Oncology Program, part of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, find ways to help other people survive brain tumors, too.
|Bill Cash is a survivor of glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive malignant brain tumor, and now he’s helping scientists in the UAB Neuro-Oncology Program find ways to help other people survive brain tumors, too.
Survival rates for those with glioblastoma are poor - only about half survive more than one year after diagnosis and only a quarter after two years. Cash still is cancer-free two years after his diagnosis; that's created an opportunity he doesn't intend to let slip away.
Following his treatment at UAB, he created a foundation to raise money for brain-tumor research. The Gaining Life Initiative (GLI), incorporated this past October, presented its first research grant of $100,000 to UAB in April.
This story really begins in May 2008, when Cash went to see his optometrist. He'd been having vision trouble. "Banging into desks and tables at the office," is the way he puts it. The optometrist sent him directly to neuro-ophthalmologists at the Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital at UAB.
"They said I'd either had a stroke or I had a brain tumor," Cash said. "Neither was very appealing to me."
They ordered an immediate MRI, which confirmed a tumor. Surgery followed in June, performed by James Markert, M.D., director of neurosurgery at UAB. A biopsy confirmed the tumor as a grade four glioblastoma. Surgery alone usually can't get every malignant tumor cell, so chemotherapy and radiation were next - a long, hard road. Then, in September 2009, MRI images showed no evidence of a tumor.
"I don't use the term in remission, but there's no sign of a brain tumor," he said. "I get an MRI every three months, and so far I'm completely cancer-free."
Cash sold his pharmacy-management company to a group of investors in 2009 and decided to use his resources and energies to help others with brain tumors. After consulting with his UAB neurologists Burt Nabors, M.D., and Hassan Fathallah-Shaykh, M.D., Ph.D., he - along with family and friends - created the Gaining Life Initiative Foundation.
"Our goal is to raise $5 million in the next fours years, money that will be available to the UAB Neuro-Oncology program to promote research we hope will extend life expectancy and find a cure for this deadly form of cancer," Cash said.
Cash plans to collaborate with foundations with similar goals, and his professional relationships within the pharmaceutical and health-care industries should be valuable. GLI is a 501(c)(3) foundation, making all donations tax-deductible.
Technically, Cash says he's retired. But he's working with the foundation. Working to raise awareness of glioblastoma. Working to raise money for the UAB Neuro-Oncology program. Working to find a way to treat, cure or prevent this dreaded disease.