Johanna Olson, Exercise Physiology Lab coordinator, was unable to return to Central Oregon Community College this fall because of a relapse of her brain tumor.
The COCC board of directors have started a fundraiser to assist Olson with her medical bills, according to COCC President Jim Middleton. Since the fund started, COCC staff have stepped forward to donate and help support Olson.
“Now she’s at the point where she can’t work anymore, so we’re trying to do everything we can to help,” said Julie Downing, director of the Exercise Physiology Lab.
To contribute to the fund, the board of directors, members of the executive team and Middleton have pledged a combined total of $1,145, according to Middleton.
The money Olson receives from the fund goes towards insurance costs, medical bills and living expenses.
“The majority of that goes towards medical expenses. So really the money goes to help me survive,” said Olson. “It’s hard to accept help sometimes, but it’s necessary.”
Olson also receives financial contributions through the support website savejohannasbrain.com, which is run by her brother-in-law, sister-in-law and herself.
“It has been very helpful and right now I’m okay financially, but next month I’ll have nothing, so it’s daunting,” said Olson. The funds she receives from donors help to relieve that stress.
Olson has been struggling with her brain tumor for 15 years and has undergone three surgeries. In Sept. 2011, after a surgery to remove the returning tumor, Olson took a five month leave of absence
from COCC. She was able to return in Jan. 2012, but the tumor returned again in July 2012.
“There is no cure for brain tumors, and I have been told to think of it as a chronic illness that we will manage over time,” said Olson in her blog at savejohannasbrain.com.
Olson has begun a new treatment and is now taking the drug Avastin, which is made to slow the growth of cancer cells and cut off the tumor’s food supplies.
Despite the setbacks, Olson remains positive about her life and still does what she loves most; she’s still running. She ran in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in her home state of Minnesota Oct. 7, something she set out to do and signed up for in May 2012.
“I needed a goal because things were so hard,” said Olson. “So it definitely has helped me because I feel best when I’m running or exercising.”
Contributions to the COCC fundraiser for Olson can made can be directly taken to any Bank of the Cascades branch, or taken to Kevin Kimball, COCC’s chief financial director who will make the deposits.
Anyone can make a donation for the benefit of Olson, according to Downing.
“It can be staff or students or anyone who would like to make a contribution,” said Downing. Contributions by check can be made out to COCC for the Benefit of Johanna Olson.
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