Brian Wieckowski started running in high school because he had no choice. He was an athletic teen who played baseball and basketball, but running was just not something the New Jersey teen was interested in pursuing. When his brother John took up cross country, however, their mother insisted that Brian run with John. John was older and a naturally gifted runner. Brian struggled to keep up with his older brother. He recalls, “I hated it at first because he was so much faster. But, over time, I grew to love it.” Now, thanks to the influence John has had in his life, Brian is training for his first marathon. The 26 year old Border Patrol Agent will be running the New York City Marathon on November 1st, 2015. He is running the marathon as a way to honor John, who was recently diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cancer called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.
John Wieckowski, a financial planner, is an athletic 30 year old man. Running and physical fitness have been a big part of his life for many years. Unfortunately, a few months ago, John became ill. He originally believed that he had a stomach flu that he could not shake. He was unconcerned initially, but when he did not improve on his own, he sought out medical care. His doctor ordered some imaging and John was soon diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cancer that effects the endocrine cells, called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET). John’s PNET had already spread outside of the pancreas, so his medical team recommended a chemotherapy regimen. Because John is young and athletic, he is tolerating his chemotherapy protocol well. Brian says, “The chemotherapy makes him tired and nauseous but he tries to get out and run and exercise when he can.” John received news at his last scan that his tumors are shrinking.
Though Brian did not have an auspicious beginning to his running career, it was something that he ventured back to as an adult. When Brian went off to college, he realized that he was starting to put on the “Freshman 15”, so he began running over summer breaks. During that time he ran with John often. Eventually, he lost the extra weight and regained his fitness. It was during that time that he first started thinking about running the New York City Marathon. “I have wanted to do the NYCM for 6 or 7 years. I chose it because it is the ‘big’ one, in my opinion. I have watched the coverage on TV every year.”
Brian explains that his brother’s diagnosis has been extremely tough on the whole family. His parents, Diane and Jack, have been John’s primary support system. They go with him for all of his treatments at Sloan Kettering in New York City. They look after him following his chemotherapy treatments and they stayed with him at the hospital while he was in for a procedure. Brian says, “It hit me hard when I found out that my brother was sick. But John has never seemed worried, so I try not to worry too much, either. John is confident and strong and he sets the tone for everybody going through it.”
Brian began running in the first place because of John. Now John’s fight has inspired him to run for Project purple. Brian’s wife, Kristina, often accompanies him on her bike for training runs. “She was happy for me to run the marathon, but once I got in with the charity, she got really excited about it,” Brian says.
Brian describes John as an inspiration to him. He says, “John is very athletic, has a great sense of humor and is extremely determined. I think about how he got me running, and for him to be diagnosed with something like this at such a young age. Why not honor him in this way?”
Please support Brian’s fundraiser by making a tax deductible donation to Project Purple at the link below: