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Louis Dolgoff lost the first love of his life to brain cancer. Today he talks about this loss and how he found a way to make sense of it all. Louis put his love and knowledge of craft beer to work, building the Beer for Brains Foundation that has raised more than $200,000 for brain cancer research.
“It’s all in your mind. You can make it a good day or bad day. I choose to make every day a good day.”
Louis and Laurie met at the young age of 16 and 17 when they were camp counselors. They dated for eight years, went on to college together and then married. A marriage that lasted 30 wonderful years.
After moving to Phoenix, to their dream home, Louis and his wife enjoyed just being together.
They always loved the same things. Both were pescatarians. Both loved craft beer, only the best. They loved tennis. Louis was a professional player. They knew each other so well.
Louis describes their relationship saying, “their antennas were lined up”.
One day his wife came home after falling. Within months, she began having terrible headaches. When she couldn’t take the headaches any longer, they found themselves at the emergency room. Laurie was diagnosed with a mass in the back of her brain. She had stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme, the worst form of brain cancer.
After her surgery, the surgeon said he got as much of the tumor as possible. But, according to Louis, with this type of cancer, if only one cell lives, the cancer comes back. The average life span is one year.
Laurie lived for two years always thinking she would beat her cancer. In her second year she eventually lost her ability to walk, talk, move.
Louis just couldn’t understand why this was happening. The love of his life. It seemed cruel. His wife kept reassuring him she was going to be okay, but Louis felt differently. He kept waiting for the cancer to return. He kept thinking that the “odds were against us”.
When the cancer did come back, she had eight tumors. Louis and his wife went to Wisconsin for a
clinical trial, even though insurance refused payment. The trial did not work, and Laurie was given one year to live.
Through his wife’s illness, Louis’ perspective about life changed. He chooses to make every day a good day and he tries to see the positive. And he continues helping people.
His journey into craft beer making started back in Baltimore when he and his wife went to a small restaurant where they tasted their first Belgium beers. They loved it.
Then in Delaware, they walked into a local brew pub, and even though there were no customers, Louis says, “the beers were amazing”. They started helping the owner at various festivals. After a year, Louis offered to “work for beer” and started helping Sam Calagione, now a world-famous rock star in the craft beer business. Louis specialized in doing big events all over the US. He also opened New York, New Jersey and Southern California, eventually bringing craft beer to Arizona.
When Laurie’s final days were near, she could barely move. In 2009, on her 55 th birthday, Louis gave her a small party with friends. Louis was ready with Laurie’s two favorite craft beers. After taking sips of both beers including a potent raspberry Dogfish Head Fort, her favorite, Laurie quietly closed her eyes and slipped into a coma. Louis knew she was done fighting. His wife passed nine days later. Louis was by her side.
Through the pain and sadness, Louis knew he couldn’t help his wife anymore, but he could help others.
The Beer for Brains Foundation was a way to honor his wife. He wanted to bring people to fundraising events that would not otherwise come to support a brain cancer fundraiser.
His events gave him a reason to keep moving forward.
The craft beer world supports Beer for Brains Foundation by donating thousands of dollars annually just as the beer community continues to help and support each other. Brain Cancer is a horrible disease that takes everything, rather quickly.
The statistics are shocking. According to Louis, brain cancer is now the number one cancer in kids. It is also the second most common cancer in males age 21 – 39. Unfortunately, the progress for brain cancer patients has not improved since the 1960’s and today the patients are living only 2 weeks longer than in the 60’s.
Louis encourages others, “don’t lose hope… you need that (hope). Don’t just sit there and wait for the person to die”. He says there are more clinical trials now than when he went through the disease with his wife so keep trying.
By moving forward, Louis Dolgoff has allowed himself to meet someone amazing and find love again.
“You have to enjoy every minute with your loved ones.” And he reminds us, “to make each day