I WOULD HAVE written about Jennifer Pownall's inspiring campaign to raise awareness of brain tumors anyway. But I was drawn to her story even more than usual because it came across my desk around the same time Daily News assistant managing editor Gar Joseph was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
That's Gar's story to tell, so I will tell Pownall's.
First there were the painful foot cramps, the 42-year-old mother from Northeast Philly recalled when we talked recently. Then there were the charley horses that would pull her to the ground withering in pain. Sometimes her skin felt like it was on fire.
For years, doctors couldn't explain the symptoms. Then, last year, Pownall was diagnosed with three meningioma brain tumors. "Two weeks before Christmas," she says. "It was quite the gift."
The tumors are noncancerous, but they cause a lot of health issues and pain, including tremors and headaches. She still manages to work full time, but goes to Jefferson University Hospital every few months to monitor their growth.
"It's depressing," she says. "As soon as you enter the neurology floor and see all of the people . . . and all of the babies, and we all know why we're there. It's sad."
Instead of letting the sadness consume her, Pownall got to thinking about the hugely popular ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge. If you somehow missed it, people challenged others to dump water over their heads to raise awareness of the disease and to raise money for research and services.
"Music is like my therapy," she said. "It's the one thing that could get me in a good mood, so I thought: Why not use it to raise awareness and money?"
Inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, she came up with the Rock Out Brain Tumors Air Guitar Challenge.
Since August, Pownall has tirelessly taken to social media to ask people to play the air guitar to their favorite songs and post them on YouTube and on her Rock Out Brain Tumors Air Guitar Challenge Facebook page. And, of course, to donate, whether or not they wish to rock out.
She posted the first video to YouTube on Aug. 21, linking it to a donation page for the National Brain Tumor Society at nbtsevents.braintumor.org/rockoutbraintumors.
As of yesterday, there were 38 donations totaling $1,255. Pownall's goal is to raise $10,000. Donations also can be made directly on the NBTS page at braintumor.org.
Good for Pownall for coming up with the idea, I thought after talking to her. It's a heartwarming story about a courageous woman who wants something good to come from her illness.
I could have left it there and, as always, counted on the generous Daily News readers to kick in a few bucks, maybe make a few videos of their own.
But as I mentioned earlier, our editor Gar Joseph was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, so I got an idea of my own:
Why not get my Daily News colleagues to make a video in an effort to spread the word about Pownall's campaign, but also to raise money in the name of one of our own?
As you can see in the video brilliantly executed by my colleague Jon Snyder, they were more than game. Check out the video here at philly.com/rockout.
We chose Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" because it has some killer guitar riffs and because, to borrow the song's lyrics, we're "Crazy, but that's how it goes."
But we also chose the song because if there's anything Gar might love as much as this newspaper, it's trains.
That's why we challenge our sister paper, the Inquirer, and SEPTA.
So, what do you say, guys?
On Twitter: @NotesFromHel
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