Newcastle woman honors father in Seattle Brain Cancer Walk

August 31, 2011

By Christina Lords

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NEW — 11:10 a.m., Aug. 31, 2011

Kelly Dowell’s father was healthy.
He ran marathons at age 60.

He worked and traveled around the world for The Boeing Co. for 30 years.

He had just traveled home to Newcastle after receiving his marine surveying license in Florida.

But in 2008, Dowell got a call she can’t erase from her mind.

Come home immediately, her mother told her.

Her father had a seizure and was transported to the hospital for testing.

A day later Dowell’s father was in surgery. Doctors discovered he had a tumor the size of a golf ball in his frontal lobe.

He had brain cancer.

That year, Dowell and her father learned of and participated in the first annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk — an event that has gone on to raise more than $800,000 for research, clinical trials, advocacy and comprehensive care for brain cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2009, after he died from the disease, she walked in her father’s memory.

She’s been walking ever since.

“One of his biggest philosophies revolved around treating everybody with respect and acknowledging everyone for who they are,” she said. “That’s the kind of man he was.”

The walk, organized and funded by Swedish Hospital, is gearing up for its fourth annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk on Sept. 24.

Registration is $25 per person through Sept. 22 or $30 per person the day of the event.

All of the money raised goes toward brain cancer research.

The entire route of the walk is a 2-mile loop, which includes walking twice around the Fountain Lawns at the Seattle Center. The walk can be shortened to a quarter-mile around the South Fountain Lawn, or participants can choose to go once around the Fountain Lawns for a 1-mile loop.

The route is scenic, flat and wheelchair accessible.

The event is dedicated to providing hope and support for the 1,500 patients in the Pacific Northwest who face brain cancer, said Nan Street, an organizer for the walk.

Street’s 23-year-old daughter died from brain cancer in 2008.

“Brain cancer is a terribly isolating disease,” she said. “It seems very obvious, but brain cancer changes your brain. It changes who you are, how you think, how you express yourself and how you communicate. The patient and the family feel like only they’re the only ones in the world dealing with this.”

With most patients are given a survival rate of one to two years, Dowell said it’s important for families and patients to reach out for support and to spend as much time as possible with family and loved ones.

For her, walking and interning with the walk, as well as starting her own blog on the topic of brain cancer, has helped her connect with other people going through the same hardships.

The Seattle Brain Cancer Walk raises money that will be distributed to brain cancer research projects in the Pacific Northwest, including the Ben and Catherine Ivy Brain Tumor Center at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.

Each year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a primary brain tumor, or cancer cells specific to the brain only or a metastatic brain tumor, where cancer cells have spread to the brain from another part of the body.

Primary brain tumors comprise approximately 40,000 of those diagnoses, but the FDA has approved only three treatments for brain cancer in the past 25 years.

Register for the walk at, or learn more by emailing or by liking the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk’s Facebook page.

Connect with Kelly Dowell on her blog at


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