Doctors first diagnosed Chris Elliott with a brain tumor after he had a seizure in 2000.
Healthy and active until then, the 39-year-old and his family quickly learned that he had brain cancer. Elliott fought a 22-month battle before he died on June 13, 2002. Toward the end of that battle, he and his wife Dellann Elliott Mydland reflected on their experience. Two things they realized was how difficult it was to maintain a sense of normalcy — taking care of day-to-day tasks and raising their two children — while fighting the disease and how disappointed they were that they had not been referred to a brain tumor specialist during Elliott’s treatment.
Elliott asked Mydland to “do something” about the disease, so three weeks before he died, they co-founded the Chris Elliott Fund (CEF), a nonprofit organization guided by its mission to end brain cancer by expanding access to specialists, advanced treatments and comprehensive support programs.
CEF operated out of Mydland’s Sammamish home for 10 years, where she still lives, but the organization recently opened a patient support services center at 14959 N.E. 95th St. in Redmond. A grand opening and ribbon cutting event was held at the center on Jan. 3.
Before moving into its current location, CEF spent about a year and a half in offices at JMS Construction on Willows Road Northeast in Redmond.
CEF communications manager Rachel Tougher said JMS donated the space to them. She added that the new location works well because it’s not too far from their previous location and is close to State Route 520 for patients coming from Seattle and other areas.
“It’s a perfect place,” Tougher said. “It’s a great hub of information and community.”
Tougher said CEF advocates for patients in all ways possible once they are diagnosed with brain cancer or a brain tumor. From answering any questions patients and their families may have, to talking with doctors, to working with pharmaceutical companies, she said they walk patients through the entire process. Tougher said often times, when people find information about brain cancer and brain tumors, there usually is no one on the other end. At CEF, she said, they want to be the ones people can come to for help and be that person and voice behind the computer.
“Our main focus is that one-on-one interaction,” Tougher said.
In addition to helping people navigate through the treatment process, Mydland said they also help them with the day-to-day tasks that can become overwhelming when facing a terminal illness.
“We realized how hard that was,” she said about her family’s experiences. “People just needed help.”
This help can range from finding a contractor to install the safety railings brain cancer patients need throughout the house, to arranging to pick up children from school.
Currently, the median survivorship for brain cancer patients is about two years and Tougher said CEF’s goal is to get patients to the five-year mark because there are greater research opportunities at that point.
Tougher said nearly 750,000 people live with brain cancer in the United States and people of all demographics are affected pretty equally.
“It doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “Men, women and children all over the board get diagnosed.”
Although CEF has always been based in the Pacific Northwest and specifically the Eastside, Tougher said they serve patients throughout Washington and the country as people can access the organization online, over the phone and through social media. Currently, CEF receives about 1,800 inquiries per month. Tougher said when the organization was first founded, they received only about 40 inquiries per month.