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Build Me Up: Glioblastoma Caregiver Gets National Platform (Q&A)

Published on August 25, 2020 in Fundraising, In the Community, Take Action

Corie Yutkin is a member of the NBTS Board of Directors, a long-time advocate, and a dedicated supporter of our vision to conquer and cure brain tumors – once and for all.

Corie became involved with NBTS following her husband, Michael’s, glioblastoma diagnosis. Corie and Michael began participating in the Orange County Brain Tumor Walk (now known as the Southern CA Brain Tumor Walk); eventually helped lead the event’s volunteer planning committee and have raised more than $100,000 over their team’s seven-years of participation; joined our CEO, David Arons, in Washington, D.C. for the Biden Cancer Moonshot Summit in 2016; and have participated for a number of years at Head to the Hill.

Michael, Corie, and their two daughters

Unfortunately, Michael passed away in August of 2018. Yet, Corie has gone on living life with Michael’s mantra of a “Glass Half Full.” She’s continued to participate in Head to the Hill, fundraising activities, and spoke at the inaugural Glioblastoma Awareness Day Congressional Reception at the U.S. Capitol Building in 2019.

During the first half of 2020, Corie and her two daughters had the opportunity to take part in the filming of an episode for a brand new HGTV show that premiered on July 22, called Build Me Up. The show is hosted by interior designer, social media influencer, and author, Orlando Soria, and features home renovations for clients going through major life changes. The Yutkin family episode first aired on August 5.

We recently spoke to Corie about the experience of going through the renovation, filming for the show, and what she hopes her family’s episode will inspire. Below are Corie’s (lightly edited) responses to our questions.

On Getting the Initial Opportunity to Participate:
At a casting call, when they told me the original name of the show — “Unspouse My House” — I told them that I didn’t really think that I was the right person for the show. I didn’t necessarily want to purge my house of memories of Michael, but needed to find a way for us to move forward after his death. They told me that the direction of the show was changing and that they thought my story would be a good one to tell.

On Deciding to Participate:
From the very first conversation I had, I said that if nothing came out of this other than three more people learning about brain cancer, I was okay with that. As things started to progress, I realized that I had this unique opportunity to help raise awareness about brain cancer and share a little bit about what a family goes through when a loved one is diagnosed. I wanted to share that, as difficult and heartbreaking as our journey is, that we found a way to keep going with the support of our family and our village.

On the Cast, Crew, and Producers Support for Raising Brain Cancer Awareness:
Everyone was incredibly sensitive to our loss of Michael and went out of their way to make sure that I was okay with everything that they were doing in terms of telling our story. They recognized that each step was going to be challenging and gave me the time I needed to either cry or process the feelings that I was experiencing. The emotions you see on the show were real. It was very important to me to be authentic in everything they were filming. I was glad that they chose to use a photo from the Orange County Brain Tumor Walk as a way to show our village of support. The host, Orlando, was incredibly kind and generous with his words on Glioblastoma Awareness Day and directed his followers on social media to our fundraising page. Each member of the crew, including the producers, appreciated that I was willing to share so much of our story and allow others a glimpse into our lives.

On the Experience of Taping and Going Through the Renovation Process with the Show:
I have never liked being on camera. It actually makes me very uncomfortable. However, it was so important to me to have this opportunity to raise awareness about brain cancer, that I didn’t care about how I felt about being filmed. And, truthfully, when it came down to it, the cameras seemed to fade away and it was just Orlando and I having a conversation. Most of the filming was done in the house or in our neighborhood.

There is obviously a lot that they didn’t show in our episode. When Orlando mentioned that we had just about every challenge with our renovation, he wasn’t kidding. There were so many things that went wrong that it almost became a comedy. We had additional roof leaks during the renovation that had rain pouring down into the house. Thankfully the new flooring and cabinets hadn’t gone in yet. They accidentally hit a gas line and had to evacuate the house and the fire department and gas company came and had to close off our street. We had live wires, structural issues, and leaky pipes, that never made it onto the show. I learned to laugh about most of the things that were happening because I literally had no control over any of them.

Corie, the girls, and Orlando on set

Michael was always really concerned about protecting us and always wanted to make sure that our house was safe. I know that now our house is safe and that he would be happy to know that we don’t need to worry about any of those things anymore. We have the house that he and I dreamed of creating for the girls.

On How the Renovation Changed Her Home and Life:
Our home feels much more welcoming now. It is so open and is even better than what Michael and I could have dreamed up for our family. I don’t have the painful visual reminder that we created a bathroom for him to use and he’s not here to be able to use it. There’s not the space where the hospital bed used to be. The master bathroom is now an oasis and not a place that brings back bad memories.

Orlando created this beautiful outdoor Glass Half Full space for us and it has brought so much healing to our family. We sit out there together and feel the calm and peace that has been missing. For me, it’s a place to reflect and be grateful for all of the time that we had together as a family. I know that we were lucky to have more than six years with Michael after he was diagnosed with GBM. I am thankful that Orlando recognized that I needed a place to heal and be surrounded by love.

Attribution: Corie Yutkin

On Feedback and Response to the Episode So Far:
I think that overall the response has been very positive to our episode. I have read all of the comments on social media and so many people responded that they had a loved one who had been affected by GBM. I made sure to reach out to everyone who commented and let them know that they were not alone. It’s a community that you never want to be a part of, but are so grateful when you need it. It’s important to know that there are those out there that “get it.” I don’t think I realized how large my village was and that was incredibly touching. I am just glad that I had the opportunity to raise awareness about brain cancer in a way that reached so many.

On What She Hopes Viewers Take Away From the Episode:
I hope that viewers see that there is always hope, even after all the loss. Of course, there are days when I am curled up in the fetal position and crying because I miss Michael so much and I cry for all that he is missing in the girls’ lives. But I will continue to get up and be present for myself and for the girls. I won’t stop fighting for a cure and raising awareness because I don’t want another family to go through what we did. I will continue to advocate and remind my legislators that they have the opportunity to make a REAL difference to the brain tumor community. Our voices and our stories matter. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to make my voice heard on a different platform.

If you’d like to support Corie’s continued efforts to help defeat glioblastoma, and all brain tumors, please consider making a gift on her Glass Half Full page

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