August 14, 2017

After Brain Cancer Diagnosis, Morrilton Mom Starts 5K to Fund Research

Sept. 5 — Christmas 2013 was like no other for Julie Papini Session of Morrilton.

Having experienced symptoms including forgetfulness, nausea and severe headaches for several weeks, Session took the advice of a friend and saw her doctor Dec. 23. She received a call the following day — Christmas Eve — that “a little something” had been detected behind her right eye and that she should return for a second appointment in two days.

Go Gray in May 5K founder Julie Papini Session (center) is pictured on race day with her children (from left) Jake, Alex, John and Katie Session. Julie’s husband, Todd Session, is not pictured.

“My doctor was also my next door neighbor. He was trying to protect us so we could enjoy the holiday,” she said.

The “little something” turned out to be a 7.5 cm tumor. After a successful surgery on Dec. 27, it was confirmed to be glioblastoma multiforme grade 4 (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the brain.

“It was a surreal experience. I was supposed to be enjoying Christmas with my family and suddenly I was having brain surgery,” said Session, the mother of four children ages 6 to 16.

Jump ahead to 2017, and Session is now on a mission to raise awareness and funds in the fight against brain cancer. The first-ever Go Gray in May 5K, organized entirely by Session and her family, was held May 20 in Morrilton and drew more than 200 participants. The race was presented by Going Gray for Julie, a nonprofit organization formed by the family.

On Aug. 1, a donation of $15,000 in proceeds from that event was presented to the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for brain cancer research.

Accepting the donation were radiation oncologists Fen Xia, M.D., Ph.D., and Jose Penagaricano, M.D., both professors in the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine. Xia also is chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology.

“I can’t say enough about the dedication that Julie and her family have shown in rallying their community to raise funds for brain cancer research. Their spirit is sure to inspire many more people to get involved and help us improve our ability to prevent, diagnose and treat brain tumors in the future,” Xia said.

Session is thankful for the support of her community in sponsoring and participating in the first-ever Go Gray in May 5K, which is named in reference to the gray brain cancer ribbon. The second annual race is planned for May 19, 2018.

“There is no cure for GBM, but it is treatable. Until there is a cure, I will always be fighting GBM and supporting research,” Session said.

For information on the 5K, visit the Going Gray for Julie Facebook page or email gograyforjulie@gmail.com.