Gina's Story

College Student Who Battled a Brain Tumor Is Now Inspired to Help Other Cancer Patients

Gina Cortese was a 20-year-old college student majoring in education at Kent State University when she first felt a numbness in her left toe.

When initial blood work did not reveal anything serious, Gina brushed it off and went back to her life. However, the numbness rapidly began to progress, travelling up her leg and into her arm. When her leg gave out during class one day, she knew something was very wrong. That was January 25, 2012, the day when an MRI revealed Gina had a mass in her brain.

Intense Treatment for an Aggressive Cancer

The mass turned out to be a brain tumor. Gina was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer called giant cell glioblastoma.

Gina immediately underwent brain surgery, and when she awoke, her left side was paralyzed. She had to relearn how to do many things, including walking, talking and writing.

After her surgery, Gina underwent intense radiation and chemotherapy and was eventually declared cancer-free. But eight months later, another MRI revealed that the cancer was back, and she had to go through it all over again. After several more rounds of treatment, Gina beat cancer again and remains cancer-free today.

Although Gina had to drop out of college during her cancer treatment, she was at long last able to graduate in December 2015, although her experience inspired her to choose a different career path. She now hopes to dedicate her life to helping other cancer patients.

Collecting Hats for Cancer Patients

Gina has started a charity called Gina’s Journey, which collects hats for cancer patients. After she lost her hair due to radiation, Gina struggled to find attractive and affordable hats, and she wanted to make that burden easier for other cancer patients. Gina’s Journey collects the hats through a series of donation boxes located throughout Northeast Ohio. The hats are then professionally cleaned and distributed to children and adult patients at UH Seidman Cancer Center and UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

You can learn more about Gina’s charity and how you can donate at

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