'I keep busy, is how I cope': young mom with terminal cancer has raised $3K for research

Six weeks after she graduated nursing school, five weeks after she gave birth to her daughter, Catherine Wreford Ledlow found out she had brain cancer.

Winnipeg dance teacher running in WPS half-marathon to raise even more and honour lost friend

Catherine Wreford Ledlow, left, started running thanks to Joanne Schiewe, right. The two women had the same terminal diagnosis and met at a support group. Scheiwe has since passed away. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Six weeks after she graduated nursing school, five weeks after she gave birth to her daughter, Catherine Wreford Ledlow found out she had brain cancer.

"I was just starting to work out again and all that kind of fun stuff and I had a really horrible headache," the Winnipeg mom of two said. "My best friend had flown in from Los Angeles to visit me for my birthday — it was also my birthday."

When she said she needed to stop because her head hurt, her best friend forced her to call her midwife. Her midwife, in turn, ordered her to go to the emergency room. Wreford Ledlow wasn't convinced there was an issue, but the next day she sent her husband to work, arranged child care for her son and drove herself to the hospital with her daughter in tow.

"I thought it was like a big joke, right?" she recalled. "I went in and they said 'What's wrong?' And I said, 'I don't know, my midwife made me come.'"

It wasn't until doctors showed her an image of her brain after a CT scan that she realized it wasn't a joke.

"When I came out of the CT scan everybody's faces were white. And it still didn't hit me," she said. "I was like 'Haha, can I have my baby back now?'

"I still didn't really understand what was happening and they finally showed me a picture of [the tumour], and it was bigger than my surgeon's fist."

Despite aggressive treatment including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a craniotomy conducted while she was awake — she said it was pretty cool — doctors gave Wreford Ledlow two to six years to live.

More than $3K raised for brain cancer research

Since her diagnosis nearly four years ago, Wreford Ledlow hasn't slowed down.

"I keep busy, is how I cope," she said.

In addition to being a mom of two, Wreford Ledlow, a dancer who has performed on Broadway, teaches musical theatre at the Shelley Shearer School of Dance, and is the facilitator of a local support group for people with brain cancer.

She's also slotted to run a five-kilometre race during Winnipeg Police Service half-marathon on May 7 to help raise money for brain cancer research.

"I'm not really a runner," she said. But she got started running thanks to her friend Joanne Schiewe, a dedicated runner with terminal brain cancer who she met through the support group.

Schiewe has since passed away, but Wreford Ledlow said she'll have a special presence on race day. Schiewe's family is also collecting donations for brain cancer research.

Wreford Ledlow has already raised more than $3,000 for the cause. The Ventura Group has agreed to match every donation under $2,000 made between April 21 and May 5, and that total will in turn be doubled by Brain Canada.

If you want to donate, you can visit Wreford Ledlow's donations page. Registration for the run has already closed, but you can still get involved by attending the after party in memory of Joanne Schiewe after the race.

With files from Ismaila Alfa, Aidan Geary