Brian Moran’s kidney cancer diagnosis came as a complete surprise a few weeks before his 50th birthday last year.
He’d had no symptoms. A physical therapist, who was treating him for an exercise-related lower back injury, ordered an MRI to see the extent of the injury.
“I thought the Orthopedic doctor was going to talk about a pulled muscle or something,” Brian said
Instead, the MRI showed metastasized lesions on his spine. Bone and CT scans revealed a mass on the left kidney, which was eventually diagnosed as stage IV renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
“The beginning was the most difficult,” said Brian, whose lesions were spotted in April 2019, since he had very little knowledge about kidney cancer and had to learn what being diagnosed stage IV meant in order to truly understand his prognosis.
Treatment started quickly, and Brian was surprised at how individualized his cancer treatment was. The medical oncology hematology consultants at the Helen Graham Cancer Center started him on ten days of radiation for the bone lesions. Brian also started receiving immunotherapy with Yervoy and Opdivo (ipilimumab and nivolumab). He continued to be on Yervoy for six months and remains on Opdivo, receiving treatment once a month.
While undergoing treatment, Brian realized that he needed to make lifestyle changes and find a new outlet to release stress. His usual choices of paddle boarding, and surfing weren’t an option since it was now December, so Brian started to run. Brian’s fiancé, Cathy, is a runner and had signed up for the half marathon run of the Coastal Delaware running festival in Rehoboth, Delaware the following spring.
The date of the half marathon would be around the same time as Brian’s diagnosis anniversary, He decided that running the half marathon with his fiancé would be a way to show himself that he could he could win any physical or mental battle that came his way.
His mantra was: “I can do this, I’m not going to let this beat me. Win today, don’t worry about tomorrow’s battle until tomorrow.”
Brian began training for the race in April 2020 on his Peloton treadmill. However, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic forced race coordinators to adopt a virtual format. Brian had to decide whether to run the half-marathon virtually by himself or drop out and give up on his training. He chose the former.
“I was doing this for a reason,” Brian said.
The virtual race proved to be more of a mental challenge. Brian’s goal was to finish in about 2 hours and he crossed the virtual finish line in 2 hours and 18 minutes.
“I was diagnosed weeks before my 50th birthday, so I had to cancel a lot of trips and change a lot of plans.”
Brian still runs a few times a week, but he’s focused on getting ready for surfing and paddle boarding. His treatments are going well, his bones are healing, and the mass on his kidney is now half the size it was when he was diagnosed. He credits his support system of friends, family, and coworkers for helping him through the process. Their encouragement and support grounded him.
For others, Brian stressed the importance of finding a doctor and a care team that you trust and makes you comfortable.
“Let them do their job. Your job is to stay positive and stay healthy. You still have a life to live and you need to live that life the best you can. You can win that mental battle and the physical battle.”