2019 How To Kick Mass Thrivership Mission, Ottawa: Bryan, Eric, Dennis

Visiting Canada has always been a fun escape for me. Growing up in Michigan, we would visit Toronto often to visit family in the summer. Occasionally, they would leave my brother and I there with our family for weeks on end. It was always fun hanging out with our Canadian cousins! I assume that this was done to give our parents a break and free daycare. Of course our Canadian cousins would conversely spend time in Michigan to give our uncles and aunts breaks. I remember anxiously waiting by our window for our cousins to pull into our driveway! At the end of October, I returned to Canada with 2 other Brain Tumor survivors. mAss Kickers Foundation has been all over the world. See some of the places we’ve been, below! It’s always fun connecting oncology survivors from different backgrounds! We were in Toronto last year and had a great time. This year we went to the Capitol of Canada, Ottawa. This time around, there were three brain tumor survivors on this trip. 1) Bryan, a long term pediatric brain tumor survivor, went on our previous trip to Toronto. 2) Dennis is a more recent brain tumor survivor, with almost the exact same brain tumor type/location: Meningioma at Cerebello-pontine angle (CPA)… just a decade later than 3) me, a 14 year CPA meningioma survivor . Dennis is just starting to get involved in brain tumor advocacy, so I was very excited to meet him! None of us had been to Ottawa, so this would be a new adventure for all of us in an unfamiliar environment.

    The objectives of this trip were to:
  1. Learn about the unique intricacies of navigating healthcare in Canada.
  2. Present our individual survivorship stories to survivor support groups.
  3. Learn more about the history/culture/attractions of Ottawa.
  4. Connect with oncology treatment survivors in Ottawa.
  5. Support unified international oncology research.
  6. Give post treatment oncology thrivers a unique travel adventure to help them FIND THEMSELVES and CONNECT WITH PEOPLE who have endured similar journeys.

The weather definitely added a sense of adventure and uncertainty! Flights were delayed, layovers were missed, and it was colder than I expected. I have never enjoyed cold temperature (probably due to my Filipino blood), but I’m always willing to brave the elements for a unique experience. We tried to familiarize ourselves with the area the first day and patiently waited for the rest of the group to arrive. We ordered food the first day and hung out at our Air B&B the first night. We tried to plan out activities the second day by catching a hop on/hop off bus, but the company was closed for the season. We decided to just take a Lyft to Byward market to have breakfast and explore the area on foot. We ended up touring the Canadian Senate and going grocery shopping. Grocery shopping in different countries is always so interesting. It is always fun to see the different items in the stores. Later that evening, we did a presentation at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center for the monthly brain tumour support group. Check out the pictures from the 2019 How To Kick Mass (HTKM), Ottawa trip Day 1 and 2.

The next day, we slept in a little and visited the National Gallery of Canada. I never really appreciated art until we visited the museums in Brussels. I learned about the geographic lines/shapes of Art Deco in Brussels. In Brussels, we actually went home/museum of Art Nouveau which got me thinking for the first time about art… I was always a big fan of natural history museums, but I now have a new found appreciation of art. I still don’t get modern/contemporary art, but renaissance sculptures and black and white photography are starting to grow on me. Check out the pictures from the 2019 HTKM, Ottawa trip Day 3

The following day, we went to the Royal Canadian Mint where they make the $1 coins (looney), $2 coins (tooney), and commemorative coins. We decided to check it out because who doesn’t find money interesting. Afterwards we did more exploration and found a Canadian pub to have lunch and Canadian beer. Dennis wanted to check out a spa after lunch, so he went on his own adventure while Bryan and I went grocery shopping for the rest of the week. Check out the pictures from Day 4.

We had the opportunity to attend a Canadian Cancer patient conference at the Shaw Centre, which is connected to the Shaw Centre shopping mall. We connected with many Canadian oncology survivor organizations. It was pretty cool learning about health issues in a different country! We grabbed a quick lunch at the mall and decided to check out the Ottawa Dia de Los Muertos celebration afterwards. I attended my first Dia de Los Muertos celebration in Houston last year. The event stuck with me because it is meant to honor loved ones that have passed on. I have befriended so many inspirational oncology patients that have passed, and it was starting to take it’s toll on me. My first exposure to Dia de Los Muertos in Houston finally gave me closure and a chance to symbolically “say goodbye”. The event is a celebration and FAR FROM scary or somber. Will definitely try to hit it up again wherever I am. Check out the pictures from Day 5

The final day that we were all together was a very busy day. In the morning, we went to the Notre Dame Basilica to attend a Catholic church service. Afterwards, we explored downtown Ottawa. We went sight seeing and grabbed lunch at a random pub downtown. We had some time to kill before an informal meetup with Canadian survivors so we decided to walk to the restaurant early and hangout. I was afraid that if we went back to the Air B&B we would be too tired to go out. I was very excited to hangout with survivors from Ottawa because I prefer meeting people in comfortable/informal settings. The last few trips, we’ve made it a tradition to do a candy exchange with survivors from different countries. hee hee hee… candy is my weakness. I think I have a bunch of cavities. Check out the photos from Day 6.

Dennis left early in the morning the following day, leaving Bryan and I in the Air B&B. The day was originally scheduled for shopping, but neither of wanted to do any shopping so we decided to stay in and try to finish all the left over food! HAHAHA! A lazy day was exactly what we needed. We watched a bunch of movies/Canadian television programs to unwind. The following morning we shared a Lyft to the Airport and parted ways.

The trip to Ottawa got the gears moving in my brain for the next trip. On all of the trips we have noticed one thing… regardless of background, experiences, everyone enjoys eating. Preparing food, eating food, grocery shopping, exploring the area, and meeting new survivors have defined these trips. I personally have enjoyed it when we prepare our own meals. I always enjoy going to grocery stores in different countries to see the different item that are sold. We’ve had success preparing meals in Canada and San Diego, but I wonder how that would translate on overseas trips where we are more unfamiliar with the local cuisine. Stay tuned for the 2020 trips! We are always looking for oncology thrivers to join us on future trips! STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT APPLICATION CYCLE!

Here are summaries of the international trips we’ve been on so far…
2013 Honolulu, USA
2013 Honolulu, USA recap

2013 Tokyo, Japan and Manila, Philippines
2013 Tokyo/Manila Recap

2014 Singapore, Singapore
2014 Singapore recap

2015 Brussels, Belgium
2015 Belgium recap

2016 Cape Town, South Africa
2016 Cape Town recap


2018 Toronto, Canada
2018 Toronto recap

2019 San Diego, USA
2019 San Diego recap

2019 Ottawa, Canada