Laura Rowley has always been a social person.

“Part of it is that I like people so much and I like having good relationships,” said the 53-year-old Seattle resident.

Her affinity for building relationships became apparent when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of primary brain cancer. After undergoing and recovering from surgery to remove her tumor, 20 people came to visit her each day she was in the hospital.

Most of the people within Laura’s large support network are her friends. She also has a brother, Steve, who lives in New Jersey and two young-adult children, Gregory, 21, and Isabella, 17.

Laura’s friends help her with her treatment and provide moral support. Laura aims to walk five to eight miles a day and often has a friend join her. They also often have dinner together. Laura said having a wide support network helps her keep a positive attitude about her diagnosis.

Karen Vogel has lived next door to Laura for 20 years and uses her background in patient advocacy to assist Laura.

We just clicked. She’s funny. She’s smart. She has a lot of energy. Laura’s diagnosis has brought us closer. We’re better friends now.

Karen Vogel, caregiver

“We just clicked,” Karen said of her friendship with Laura. “She’s funny. She’s smart. She has a lot of energy. Laura’s diagnosis has brought us closer. We’re better friends now.”

Karen often helps Laura navigate health insurance and along with others on Laura’s support team, attends appointments with her to translate medical jargon. Karen also manages a website for Laura to update her support network, and helped Laura connect with other GBM patients via social media. They’ve also traveled together to California and Puerto Rico. Sometimes, they just talk and get their nails done.

Karen said it can be a challenge at times for Laura’s team to straddle the line between caregiver and friend.

“There are times when we encounter these moments when we’re not sure how much to help and how much to let Laura make her own choices,” she said. “Mostly, I want to be her friend first and a caregiver second. I want to be sure I am respectful and don’t do or say anything that endangers our friendship.”

Karen said being one of Laura’s caregivers has taught her to be more compassionate.

“I’ve learned a lot and I’ve gotten back as much – if not more – than I’ve given,” she said.


The health status of patients featured reflects their condition at the time the photographs were taken and may have changed over time.