Zoe: A Pediatric Brain Tumor Survivor’s Love of Books Opens the Door to New Research Funding

The following blog post was written by pediatric brain tumor survivor Zoe Fitzgerald.

My name is Zoe. When I was three, I was diagnosed with a low-grade glioma, a type of brain tumor that caused me to go blind in my right eye. It’s been thirteen years since my initial diagnosis, and I’ve been in chemotherapy four different times.

Advances in treatment have been made for my type of brain tumor, and the protocol I’m currently on is a targeted therapy that generally has more manageable side effects and better overall results. Unfortunately, for more aggressive types of brain tumors, there hasn’t been much progress in treatment options, and I’ve known too many kids who have passed away.

I’ve experienced first-hand how research and advances in treatment can impact a child and improve their quality of life. Combining my love for reading and my family’s desire to give back, my mom and I created Books 4 Brains to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.

You can join me in supporting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s research funding efforts by participating in the virtual Books 4 Brains read-a-thon February 5-9!

It's easy to participate! Pledge to read a number of hours or books between February 5 and 9 and match that pledge with a donation. No amount is too small and all proceeds raised will go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation to help make more research and new treatments possible for kids with brain tumors.

Books have been important in my life because they’ve taught me so much, not only in knowledge but also in empathy. When I was first diagnosed with my brain tumor, my immune system was compromised by the treatments I was given. I didn’t have a lot of options to fill my time. So when I was in hospitals, I spent a lot of time reading. While not just giving me something to do with my time, it also provided me an escape where I could forget about the trials of treatment and what I was going through at that time.

While I used to shy away from speaking to others about my journey with a brain tumor, the last few years opened my eyes to how sharing my story can help inspire others to support pediatric brain tumor research so more kids have the chance to grow up and enjoy life like I’ve been able to.

A cure to pediatric brain cancer is only possible with continued research… and research is only possible with funding. So, please READ a book, PLEDGE some $$, and HELP FIND A CURE for pediatric brain cancer!

How to Participate:

  • Pledge to read a specific number of hours or books between February 5 and 9.
  • Match that pledge with a donation here – no amount is too small!
  • Invite your friends and family to join you.
  • All proceeds raised will go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and help make more research and new treatments possible for kids with brain tumors.

Track Your Reading:

Download the Books 4 Brains guide for a pledge form and reading log for families and classrooms who plan on participating.

Book Recommendations:

Looking for a new book to add to your to-read pile? Check out a few of my favorites for teens, pre-teens, and younger children.

Books for Pre-Teens and Teens

  • Harry Potter – JK Rowling
  • Land of Stories- Chris Colfer
  • Percy Jackson- Rick Riordan
  • Book Thief-Markus Zusak
  • Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
  • The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
  • Cruel Prince series- Holly Black
  • The Invisible Life of Addie Larue- V.E. Schwab
  • Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • Keeper of the Lost Cities- Shannon Messenger
  • Six of Crows- Leigh Bardugo
  • Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton
  • Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  • The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea- TJ Klune
  • Clockwork Prince & Clockwork Princess series – Cassandra Clare
  • The Wild Robot – Peter Brown
  • The Promised Neverland – Kaiu Shirai
  • Furthermore – Tahereh Mari
  • Children of Blood and Bone- Tomi Adeyemi
  • Everlost – Neal Shusterman
  • Chain of Gold – Cassandra Clare
  • Wonder -RJ Palacio
  • We Are All Wonders -RJ Palacio
  • Maybe- Tomi Yamada

Books for Younger Kids

  • The Remarkable Farkle McBride – John Lithgow
  • Cookies: Bite-size Life Lessons – Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • Press Here – Herve’ Tullet
  • Who Loves the Little Lamb & The Bunnies’ Trip – Lezlie Evans
  • Books from the Backyardigans series

Zoe Reads René Marsh's The Miracle Workers: Boy Vs. Beast

In May 2022, Zoe teamed up with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation to host a virtual Brain Tumor Awareness Month book reading of René Marsh's "The Miracle Workers: Boy Vs. Beast" and two other children's books. Written in honor of René's son Blake who passed away from a brain tumor, proceeds from "The Miracle Workers: Boy Vs. Beast" support the Blake Vince Payne Star Fund at the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the largest known fundraising effort dedicated to infant pineoblastoma research.

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