Inside Admiral

Shining a Light on Brain Cancer - A Journey of Strength and Support

In the vast landscape of medical challenges, brain cancer remains a formidable adversary, casting a shadow of uncertainty on the lives it touches. As we observe the sixth annual Brain Cancer Awareness Day in Canada on October 24, 2023, it is crucial to shed light on the alarming rates of brain tumour incidents in our country. Canada currently stands among the nations with the highest incidence of this devastating disease. Today, we strive to raise awareness and share a message of hope, drawing inspiration from the remarkable journey of Natalie O'Brien, an Admiral Team Manager and brain cancer survivor. Her story serves as a poignant reminder of the impact of brain cancer, the strength found in support systems, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Natalie’s journey with brain cancer began on an ordinary day in June 2020, when she experienced a sudden loss of vision and sensation in half of her body. Uncertain and anxious, she sought medical help at the Cobequid Emergency Centre. She did not know that this visit would mark the beginning of a life-altering battle.

While waiting in the emergency room, Natalie suffered a grand mal seizure, a harrowing experience that left her with no recollection of the events that followed. She was immediately placed on life support, and a CAT scan revealed a large mass in her brain. Urgently transferred to the QEII hospital, she woke up in the ICU to the shocking news that she had a brain tumour the size of a grapefruit. The doctors suspected it to be Grade 2 or Grade 3 Cancer.

Throughout her treatment and recovery process, Natalie faced numerous challenges that tested her strength and resolve. One of the most significant obstacles was the impact of chemotherapy on her immune system. Her white blood cells and platelet levels were severely affected, leading to frequent pauses in her treatment. As someone who had always led a busy and active life, finding the balance between slowing down and maintaining her independence was a struggle.

However, Natalie was never alone in her fight. She was blessed with an unwavering support system that rallied around her from the moment she was hospitalized. Admiral played a crucial role in providing the necessary support during her leave. Colleagues such as Bec Cable, Thomas Vaughn, Matt Hughes, Elizabeth Drummond, and Kiersten Burke stood by her side, offering comfort and strength. The healthcare professionals at the QEII hospital ensured that Natalie received the best possible care, making her feel as comfortable as possible throughout her journey. In addition, her family, friends, and especially her parents, who lived just minutes away, provided invaluable love and support. Natalie's best friend, who shares the same street, was a constant source of solace and companionship.

"I was very blessed with the support system in place from the moment I was hospitalized."

Reflecting on her experience, Natalie offers valuable advice to others who may find themselves on a similar path. She encourages them to embrace the support available and be willing to let go of some independence. Living in the present moment, taking each day as it comes, and staying positive are essential during such challenging times. Natalie also highlights the importance of acknowledging the advancements in medical treatment and technology, reminding others that hope and progress are always on the horizon.

"Let support help you, be okay with letting go of some of your independence during the journey. To live in the moment, day by day, as you cannot control what is happening and stay positive."

Natalie's journey was made easier with the assistance of various resources and organizations. She emphasizes the critical role played by the Critical Illness benefit of $50,000 from Admiral (Blue Cross), which eased the financial burden. The Brain Tumour Foundation Canada and the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre provided invaluable support, guidance, and a sense of community throughout her journey.

As Natalie shares her story on Brain Cancer Awareness Day, her emotions are bittersweet. While it saddens her to recount her experiences, she finds solace in knowing that her story may inspire hope in others. Natalie recognizes that cancer affects countless lives. She hopes that people will take away the understanding that their health conditions do not define them, and that they can rise above any adversity they may face.

Natalie's testimonial is a reminder that even in challenging times, there is always room for hope, support, and appreciation for life. Her journey serves as an inspiration, shining light on the importance of awareness, empathy, and unity in the fight against brain cancer.

October 24 is Brain Cancer Awareness Day in Canada. For more information please visit