After facing substantial complications following surgery and receiving a surge of support from the community, a Waterloo man could be on his way home after a battle with cancer that’s been going on for months.
Bryan Kennedy and his family have been Waterloo locals for many years now, with his father David attending Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School and graduating from Gibault Catholic High School and Bryan following suit.
As David explained, Bryan has worked at D&D Distributing in Waterloo as a merchandiser for various sodas since he left high school, never missing a day of work until just recently.
Bryan also has a great passion for bowling, having participated in the sport since he was at Gibault.
He’s still an avid bowler, playing among a number of leagues in the area and performing exceptionally well, as David described it.
“He’s had about 21 300 games since he started bowling in leagues,” David said. “He’s loved by a lot of people. They know him in all the leagues around Columbia, Belleville, Fairview Heights. That’s his true love. His pastime is bowling.”
Bryan is also very fond of the young children his mother Pat takes care of at the daycare she operates out of the family’s house, developing strong relationships with many of the kids’ families over the years.
He’s also – along with David – a member of the Waterloo Knights of Columbus.
This past July, as David described, Bryan called from work in tremendous pain. He said he’d had trouble sleeping the night before and was throwing up through the morning.
They went to Mercy Hospital where, given his lower back pain and vomiting, he was given a CT scan to check for appendicitis – though doctors ultimately found a large mass in his lower-right abdomen.
This was determined to be Stage 2C testicular cancer which had spread up through Bryan’s lymph nodes and into his abdomen.
“He immediately was referred to an oncologist over at St. Clare Hospital in Fenton, Missouri, and they did a biopsy of that mass and it came back yolk-sac, nonseminoma testicular cancer, mainly called yolk sac germ cell tumor,” David said.
Bryan’s chemotherapy began soon after, about mid-September as David recalled. He went through three rounds of BEP chemotherapy – bleomycin, etoposide phosphate and cisplatin – which only seemed to get Bryan sick on the last week of the third cycle.
Following chemo, attention turned to removing the remaining tumor through surgery, with Bryan’s retroperitoneal lymph node dissection set to take place Jan. 11 at Saint Louis University Hospital.
As David said, the surgery was originally expected to take 5-6 hours but ultimately lasted over 10 hours.
On Bryan’s second day in intensive care, he was sent back into surgery for some leakage which had developed, though doctors were able to repair the problem.
Complications continued, however, as there was significant inflammation in the area of the surgery which led to bile typically meant to end up in the small intestine leaking elsewhere.
David said these complications seemed to be caused due to the fact the removed mass was attached to various other organs including his pancreas, liver and small intestine.
Ultimately, swelling in the area decreased, and doctors were able to put in stints to address the complications.
Bryan has been recovering in a hospital bed in the weeks since, with the surgery and complications requiring him to use a feeding tube since the day after the procedure.
“It was a long battle,” David said. “He wants to come home. I think he’s so strong. He was a warrior, I should say. I’m so proud of my son for being able to handle this. He never complained while he was in the hospital. The doctors said he was very stoic, and he never complained about pain or anything, so I give him credit for that.”
There has been no small outpouring of support from the community as many have become aware of Bryan’s illness and his stay in the hospital.
While David mentioned the substantial number of individuals who have offered their kind words, prayers and other support as he has provided updates on Facebook, the Knights of Columbus recently organized a fundraiser to benefit Bryan as he’s been out of work for the past month.
The trivia night came together as David requested that his peers pray for his son at a meeting sometime ago, with the group more than happy to go beyond praying.
The event took place Saturday evening in the SPPCS gymnasium and, as David indicated, it was a strong success, raising around $21,000.
“When they started posting the ads for this trivia night, they originally thought they’d be happy to get 20-30 tables and I said, ‘Well, I think you’re gonna get more than that, because this community rallies around people in need,’ and they know our family a lot,” David said. “I felt that we would probably get a pretty good support from our community and our church, and lo and behold, that’s what happened. People started lighting up the phones trying to sign up for tables.”
Along with the Knights of Columbus and all those in attendance, David also voiced his thanks for Monroe County House of Neighborly Service for donating baskets for the event’s raffle, the numerous businesses in town who offered similar support and Ss. Peter & Paul Parish for its continued support through prayer.
David also noted that Bryan has received plenty of kind words from the kids his mother has watched over, with one pair of siblings donating the earnings from a lemonade stand they operated last summer.
David further offered great thanks for the family of Zach Wheat, who passed away in 2022 while himself battling testicular cancer.
As David said, upon reaching out to the Wheat family, they were happy to help. He found their kindness heartwarming and said he feels they helped save Bryan’s life by offering their personal experiences with the disease.
Looking forward, another fundraiser to benefit Bryan – this time a bowling game at West Park Bowl in Columbia – is set to take place March 16, though David said spots for the event are already largely filled up.
Bryan could also be on his way home as soon as this week if all goes well.
“I was over there yesterday after the fundraiser, showing him all the pictures and everything, and the doctor came in,” David said Tuesday. “The plan – it’s not definite yet – the plan is for him to come home tomorrow from SLU and recover at home with a feeding tube.”
Though Bryan seemed to be in a good state after suffering through the many surgery complications he has faced, David wished to express a message urging awareness of testicular cancer.
He noted that this particular cancer occurs chiefly in men ages 15-35, and it is exceptionally important to regularly do self-exams at least on a monthly basis.
David urged individuals to not ignore any symptoms or warning signs regardless of how sensitive the issue might be – especially given how high testicular cancer survival rates can be if the cancer is found early.
“The sooner you go to the doctor and have it checked out, the better chance you have of surviving,” David said. “Testicular cancer is, I learned from all this, one of the few that are curable, and it’s got I think a 90-95 percent cure rate if you catch it early.”