I was a normal healthy 19 year old. I spent the early months of 2006 playing hockey and skiing, just like every other winter since I was a kid. I noticed a bump in my left thigh, and asked a doctor about it. At that time it was barely noticeable, and the doctor told me it was a muscle contusion or a torqued muscle from skiing. I didn’t think twice about it for the rest of winter, but by June 2006, the lump had gotten significantly larger, and a muscle contusion would have gone away. I went to the doctor again, and this time the doctor decided that I should get an MRI to see if there was a mass. As it turns out, there was a pretty big mass, about the size of a clenched fist, sitting between the muscles in my thigh.
In July 2006, I was diagnosed with a liposarcoma. The tumor was between muscles but had grown onto my sartorius muscle. This muscle stretches from the outside of the hip to the inside of the knee. The doctors told me they needed to take the muscle out to ensure that all the cancer was removed. Within a couple weeks the tumor and sartorius muscle were removed, and I spent 4 days in the hospital and then 3 weeks in bed at home. I wasn’t supposed to get out of bed until my leg healed itself shut again. The doctor warned me that the surgery might have long-term consequences on my physical activity, and I might not be able to play hockey again. As soon as my leg healed from the surgery, I began physical therapy to learn how to walk again. It took me a couple weeks before I was comfortable walking, and then radiation started. 35 rounds of radiation hurt the progress I was making in physical therapy, and gave me entirely new reasons to need more physical therapy. I used a cane for almost 2 months after my surgery, a very strange sight for a college student on campus. In October 2006, I was told I was in remission. I had completed my treatments and cancer was nowhere to be found.
While still undergoing radiation I started to play hockey again (very poorly, but I got on the ice…). The following summer I began cycling to get into shape, and signed up the LiveStrong Challenge in Philadelphia. I completed the 100 mile ride one year after my cancer-free prognosis. The next summer, I met Jonny Imerman and signed up to run the Chicago Marathon with Imerman Angels. I had never been a runner, but the idea of challenging my leg and body to do something I had never done before cancer had me fired up. In October 2008, almost two years to the day after my cancer-free prognosis, I completed the Chicago Marathon with IA. This past summer, I trained for and completed the Chicago Triathlon and I ran the Chicago Marathon for Imerman Angels with my girlfriend. The cancer fighters I met through Imerman Angels this year were my motivation. I have met a few liposarcoma fighters worried about how their body might respond and if they will be able to continue and active life, and I ran to prove that we really can dominate cancer.
- Brian Pienta