The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy had a personal resonance for Mary Pallotta of Dix Hills.
Her 43-year-old brother, Dennis, died a decade ago from the same form of brain cancer. Seven years ago she created a foundation dedicated to him that funds research and provides support for brain cancer and head injury patients.
After losing her brother and eight other family members to cancer, "I was devastated and I went back to school at C.W. Post and Hofstra," Pallotta said, to gain the credentials to create the Guardian Brain Foundation. She is the president of the organization. Officers and doctors on the foundation's medical advisory board are volunteers.
When she learned of Kennedy's death, she said: "I felt so bad because I totally understand everything that the family has been through. It's horrifying watching a family member dying of brain cancer. My only healing was giving back - being able to make a difference in other people's lives from all that I've learned when I was trying to help my brother: what path to take, which doctors.
"Support groups are so important that we created groups in Nassau and Suffolk counties for patients to attend free."
One positive aspect of Kennedy's battle with brain cancer is that it will raise understanding of the disease, Pallotta said.
"I think there is just not enough awareness about brain cancer," she said. "It may seem hard to believe, but over 200,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year. Unfortunately, the statistics are rising rapidly."
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