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Running for her life: Winnipeg mom with brain cancer fundraising for research money

"It’s either you can be positive or you can go and cry. And I’ve chosen to be positive," said Catherine Wreford Ledlow, 36.

Catherine Wreford Ledlow and her three-year-old daughter, Quinn, read one of their favourite books, Dragons Love Tacos.

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski/Metro

Catherine Wreford Ledlow and her three-year-old daughter, Quinn, read one of their favourite books, Dragons Love Tacos.

Catherine Wreford Ledlow is running for her life, with hopes of one day saving countless others’, too.

After being diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma—a grade three brain tumour—in 2013, doctors predicted she had two to six years to live. They also said her cancer would progress into glioblastoma—the same disease that’s clung to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.

Wreford Ledlow, 36, has been fundraising for brain cancer research ever since, aiming to stay positive and productive.

"There just isn’t enough money to do research, there really isn’t," she said in an interview at her River Heights home Thursday. "And it’s so frustrating because there’s so much money for breast cancer, prostate cancer… because so many people have them. But this kind of cancer is killing people all over the place and it’s getting (worse)."

Joanne Schiewe, her good friend and neighbour, died from glioblastoma in August.

Catherine Wreford Ledlow and her friend, Joanne Schiewe, photographed together last June. Schiewe died about two months later as her health worsened.

Supplied

Catherine Wreford Ledlow and her friend, Joanne Schiewe, photographed together last June. Schiewe died about two months later as her health worsened.

This time last year, the women were preparing to run the Winnipeg Police Service five-kilometre run together and fundraising tens of thousands of dollars.

Now, Wreford Ledlow is going it alone. All the money she raises will be donated to her oncologist, Dr. Marshall Pitz at CancerCare Manitoba, for research purposes.

"I’m trying to raise more money right now, but it’s hard though because people give money and then the next year you’re like, 'I’m still alive! Can you donate some more?'" she said, laughing lightly.

Wreford Ledlow is an actress and dancer, who used to tour around the U.S. with Broadway shows.

After her diagnosis, she moved back home to Winnipeg with her young family—husband Joel, son Elliot, 6, and daughter Quinn, 3—where she now teaches musical theatre and performs in local stage productions.

Keeping busy is vital to her well-being, Wreford Ledlow said.

"It’s always better to keep active, but because of the medication I take, I can’t do 20 things at once anymore," she said. "Because I have two kids, I can’t sit down and cry. Some days I want to and some days I do, when my kids aren’t there."

Wreford Ledlow worries about not being able to see her children grow up, graduate or get married. Her son, Elliot, knows she is sick, but Quinn—who was five weeks old when her mom was diagnosed—doesn’t understand yet.

She gets MRIs every three months to monitor her condition.

On May 7, she’ll run the WPS 5K, which benefits the Canadian Cancer Society. Donations she raises from Monday onward will also be doubled by developers at Ventura Group and doubled again by Brain Canada. Her online fundraising campaign can be found at runningroom.com.

"You’re stuck between this long of a life," Wreford Ledlow said, pinching her fingers an inch apart. "Or this long of a life," she said, spreading them a few inches wider.

"It’s either you can be positive or you can go and cry. And I’ve chosen to be positive."

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