Thornton woman top fundraiser


“I have a brain tumor, what’s your excuse?”

It was with just a touch of humor and a lot of irony that is what Debbie Hughes of Thornton named her team that participated in the annual Denver Brain Tumor Walk at Sloan’s Lake Park June 1.

A brain tumor can be debilitating and have life-altering side effects, and it’s for this reason Hughes thinks the topic may be taboo.

“Not a lot of people talk about it,” said Hughes, 52.

“It’s hard to hide a scar on your head or the inability to function property, whether it be motor skills or brain function.”

Hughes is a 15-year brain tumor survivor and for the past 11 years has worked on raising funds and awareness of the disease so that a cure can be found.

She has served a prominent role on the volunteer planning committee for the walk and is the top individual fundraiser this year, said Tom Halkin awareness and community relations manager with the National Brain Tumor Society.

“The determined fundraising efforts of dedicated individuals and groups all across the country, like Deborah Hughes, play a vital role in helping the National Brain Tumor Society meet its mission of finding better treatments and ultimately a cure for brain tumors,” he said. “This is an under-recognized and under-funded disease, so the work Deb does is critical.”

Over the years Hughes has raised more than $36,500, including $15,200 this year alone.

“Funds raised through our events serve multiple purposes. They allow us to fund innovative research that will have the fastest and most significant impact, as well as fight for resources and policies that will result in better treatments and better quality of life for people affected by brain tumors,” Halkin said.

Hughes began having facial numbness in 1997, which she initially ignored until she passed out one night in September that year. She was diagnosed with a common type of brain tumor — Meningioma.

The tumor was pressing on her brain stem, and it had to be removed or doctors said she would die.

The tumor was removed after an eight-hour surgery, but grew back and had to be removed again in 2005.

Hughes still has part of the tumor in her brain, but she considers herself fortunate.

“Luckily mine wasn’t cancerous, but many people are not that lucky,” Hughes said.

There is no cure for brain tumors.

More than 688,000 Americans are currently living with a primary brain tumor, and an estimated 13,700 people will die because of the disease this year, according to the National Brain Tumor Society.

Only one out of three adults diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor today will be alive in five years.

“Brain tumors are highly complex, highly adaptable, and current survival rates for patients are unacceptable,” said N. Paul TonThat, executive director of National Brain Tumor Society.

To learn more about the disease and its fundraisers, visit


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