Brian Eder is Thriving Today Because of Cancer Research

Brian Eder has a storied history with North Carolina State University. He’s an alumnus, an adjunct professor of meteorology who has taught more than 30,000 students, and the proud father of three Wolfpack graduates. He’s also a decades-long sports fan who was a student at NC State when they hired a new, enthusiastic basketball coach named Jim Valvano.

While Brian vividly recalls the “Jimmy V magic” that Valvano’s coaching career and personality brought to the city of Raleigh throughout the 1980s, he believes the founding of the V Foundation for Cancer Research in 1993 left an even bigger impact.

“His legacy as a basketball coach was already incredible. But then everything changed when he was diagnosed,” said Brian. “I think that revealed his true legacy wasn’t just to be a basketball coach, but someone who can make a difference in people’s lives. Thirty years later, after his death, think how many people are alive because of him and the research he has helped get started.”

Brian, a cancer thriver, is one of those people.

In early 2011, Brian had a particularly full year. He was the father of three busy children while also juggling two careers – a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and an adjunct professor at NC State. When he started having abdominal pain, he waved it off until it became too unbearable to ignore.

“The doctor said, ‘It looks like you have a mass,’ which is not something you want to hear,” recalls Brian.

As a scientist with the EPA, Brian had access to medical journals world-wide and began his own research as he anxiously awaited biopsy results. When he got the call from his oncologist, he was in the middle of reading a paper about diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same type of cancer he’d soon hear about on the phone from Joseph O. Moore, M.D.

He’d initially met Dr. Moore through a family member and had reached out to him again when he got his own diagnosis. Dr. Moore was compassionate, optimistic, and always eager to talk about meteorology and college basketball, two of Brian’s favorite interests. What he didn’t know at that time was that Dr. Moore treated another patient years prior who also loved college basketball: Jim Valvano.

Dr. Moore put together a treatment plan involving six rounds of chemotherapy, and after three sessions, they planned to check in on the progress. At that scan, the tumor had shrunk by about 80%, a welcome present to receive on his birthday, June 7. He completed the chemotherapy, and because his initial tumor exceeded 10 centimeters, considered “bulky,” his next step was radiation.

“As a scientist, I wanted to know if there were any trials in this aspect of the treatment that I could participate in,” said Brian. “It’s my way of giving back to the scientific community and all the patients who had been treated before me. Because so many people before had gone through clinical trials and that’s why I’m alive, I jumped at that opportunity.”

Brian with his grandson

Brian did participate in a trial where he would take fewer radiation sessions than previous protocols. The goal was to reduce radiation exposure, and subsequently the possibility of secondary cancers, while maintaining the same level of treatment. More than a decade later, Brian remains cancer free.

Since that time, Brian has embraced so many new chapters of life: seeing all three of his children graduate college and move into their adult lives, meeting his first grandchild, and continuing to teach generations of new Wolfpack students about meteorology.

“I remember thinking ‘God, I can teach a lot of teenagers about the atmosphere and the beauty of your environment if you let me hang on a little bit,’” said Brian.

He has also focused on sharing his story with others to inspire them to be advocates for their own health, listen to their bodies, and support cancer research, a key driver of why he’s here today.

Through the four decades of crossing paths with Jim Valvano’s legacy – as a coach, a cancer research champion, and even through working with Dr. Moore, a founding Board Member of the V Foundation  –  Brian has a new take on life as a cancer thriver.

“It makes you see where Jimmy V’s passion comes from. He said, ‘It may not save my life, but it may save my children’s lives.’ And it did. And indirectly, it certainly helped save mine.”

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