Marathon Just One More Challenge for Air Force Officer with Brain Cancer

(PRWEB) For most of us, there comes a time when a decision is made on the direction of the rest of our lives. It doesn’t usually happen between brain surgeries.

While fighting brain cancer, former Fairchild Air Force Base resident Michael Moyles decided he was going to run, and by extension, he was going to live. That commitment continues at the Spokane Marathon, where Moyles will attempt the 26-mile course and his first marathon.

Just for a challenge, he’s doing it in between stints in chemotherapy.

Moyles’ decision to attempt his first marathon in Spokane comes from the Bellevue, Neb., resident’s three-year stay at Fairchild FAFB and the closeness of his family, most of which resides in Eastern Washington.

“I didn’t live anywhere in the United States until college,” said the nomadic Moyles, currently a major in the U.S. Air Force. “My parents retired here and my sister works here. It’s as close to a hometown as a guy like me can have.”

In December of 1999, Moyles, then 27, was playing in a city league basketball game in St. Louis when he collided with another player in pursuit of a loose ball and was knocked unconscious. An Air Force policy dictated he have a CT scan, and that scan found a golf-ball sized tumor in his right frontal lobe.

Doctors watched the tumor for a year, decided Moyles needed surgery, and he was operated on in May of 2001. While recovering, Moyles had his turning point.

“I said to myself, ‘This is serious,’ and I can’t have this ‘poor-me’ attitude,” Moyles said. “I have to make a positive effort. I can’t sit and wait, and I started running shortly after that, and now I’m addicted.”

Prior to that decision, he had made the connection between being physically fit and having a body primed to fight cancer, but now he was ratcheting up the dedication.

Moyles started running duathlons, which are triathlons with twice the running and no swimming, and the neurosurgeons had the impression the cancerous tumor was a “one-and-done” scenario.

In January of this year, they were proven wrong. During a scheduled MRI, doctors found a second tumor – in the exact same place.

“It was more aggressive and larger,” Moyles said. “It came back with a vengeance and within 90 days I had a second surgery scheduled.”

This April, he had his second surgery. He said recovering from brain surgeries is not something he likes to get good at, but this time he skipped intensive care and was out of the hospital in two days. A month later, he was running. After six weeks, he was running competitively in a duathlon.

“It’s a blow because you think you’ve got it beat,” Moyles said. “It comes back stronger and more aggressive after you thought it was done. This time, my wife and I were down for about two or three days, then it was back to business and get back to running and get back to fighting.”

His inspiration to run a marathon came at this time while watching Lance Armstrong, another cancer survivor, announce his intentions to ride in his seventh Tour de France. A marathon seemed like the best idea, and Spokane’s was picked, but recovering from surgery would not be the only obstacle.

He’s used the training for the marathon to raise money for the National Brain Tumor Foundation (NBTF), a non-profit organization founded in 1981 by patients and family members. The National Brain Tumor Foundation is dedicated to raising funds for research and to providing information and support to brain tumor patients and their loved ones. For more information about NBTF visit their web site at or call 1.800.934.CURE (2873).

The recurrence of the cancer made him an ideal candidate for chemotherapy.

“You hear the horror stories,” he said. “We started it just a few days (after surgery). That was almost as tough. Cancer’s the first C-word you don’t want to hear, but chemotherapy’s the second. I’m kind of a strange type of person. I’m just incredibly driven, and don’t really let much affect what I want to do.”

So he woke up early, went to his chemo treatment at 5:30 a.m., waited an hour before eating, then ran 13 or 14 miles. Then, on more than one occasion, he threw up.

“I baptized a parking lot here and there,” said Moyles, who is in the middle of a break during 12 rounds of scheduled chemo. “You sort of understand that’s going to happen. You take the word ‘too’ out of your vocabulary. Whether it’s too hot, too dark, too sick, too cold or too windy, all of it’s an excuse. It’s a mental decision to win.”

Written by J.D. Larson Staff Writer for Spokesman-Review