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Philanthropy beat: One-man support for tumor patients

  • Article by: Jean Hopfensperger
  • Star Tribune
  • September 17, 2012 - 5:53 PM

Greg Cantwell arrived in Minneapolis on Oct. 28, 2004, expecting to start a job in the airline industry. But that night in his hotel room, he suffered a grand mal seizure and later a diagnosis that would take him on a very different journey.

Cantwell, 38, beat the grim odds of his diagnosis -- stage 4 glioblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor. He emerged a man with a mission, namely to help other brain tumor patients navigate their maze of decisions and emotional issues.

Today, Cantwell is a one-man support group for people across the country who are grappling with life-threatening tumors. This year, he started a nonprofit to expand his reach.

"I've worked with people in all 50 states,'' said Cantwell, of Cottage Grove. "The youngest is a 4-year old in New York. The oldest is a man in his late 70s in Atlanta.''

His reach is global. He's also working with a man in Australia and New Zealand. Said Cantwell: "People are aware that I'm out there.''

People know Cantwell is "out there'' because he has volunteered to help patients at organizations such as the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation, the National Brain Tumor Society, the American Cancer Society, the Children's Miracle Network and more.

He offers emotional support and information, not medical advice. He counsels people on the phone, in person, via e-mail and Skype.

Cantwell also speaks to professional groups across the country. On Wednesday, he's addressing a neuroscience conference in Iowa. On Friday, he speaks at a brain tumor foundation in Seattle. Then he's off to a pharmaceutical company in Seattle.

"I want brain tumors to get as much publicity as Susan B. Komen [does for breast cancer]," Cantwell said.

Cantwell hopes having a nonprofit will encourage supporters to make tax-deductible donations to his work. He'd also like to create a fund to grant last wishes to patients with brain cancer. See gregsmission.org.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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