Chris Bruno has travelled down this brutal road before.
Starting in 2015, the Bayport native helped care for his grandmother Rosemarie Donnarumma at their home on Renee Drive, while she battled pancreatic cancer for two-and-a-half years before her death in May 2018.
Today, Bruno is four months into his own fight with stage 3 colorectal cancer. His family said that doctors are hopeful that following surgery and months and months of chemotherapy, Bruno will be cancer free by early 2022.
In the mean time, he has his big brother Anthony to lean on. Anthony Bruno on Saturday, Aug. 7, will run a solo half-marathon — 13. 1 miles — from his childhood Bayport home to his younger brother’s house in Islandia. Chris Bruno turns 31 that day.
“I wanted to do something difficult to endure with Chris,” Anthony Bruno, 33, said of his decision to take up distance running after his brother’s April 2 diagnosis. “He had to become a warrior in the battle of his life and I wanted to show my support.”
Anthony Bruno’s running journey started as a crawl, running for no longer than two minutes at a time. But he has built up his jogs to 10 miles without stopping.
At the end of each workout, Anthony Bruno uploads a photo of his run to an iPhoto album he shares with his brother “to let him know I was thinking of him and trying to fight this battle with him by sending him my love and good vibes.”
Through the run, Anthony Bruno has raised more than $5,500 for the Colon Cancer Foundation. And because of Chris Bruno’s inability to work, Anthony Bruno started a GoFundMe page that has raised $10,795.
Chris Bruno, who had been employed at LI Hydro in Islandia, will be out of work until at least early 2022. His family said that they want him to stay focused on fighting the disease and gaining back his strength, without having to worry about financial burdens and medical bills. Unused funds raised via GoFundMe will be given to the Colon Cancer Foundation, the family said.
Chris Bruno finished a six-week regimen of chemotherapy and radiation in June. He will undergo surgery later this month, and then as long as six months of intense chemotherapy treatment, Anthony Bruno said.
“Chris knew how difficult the battle would, be but was well prepared for his fight,” Anthony Bruno said, noting the time his brother dedicated to caring for their ill grandmother. “He tries to make small, attainable goals for himself to feel a sense of accomplishment and have things to look forward to.”
Among Chris Bruno’s accomplishments so far: His July engagement to his girlfriend of eight years, Kiara Castillo.
Chris Bruno, who attended grammar school in Bayport-Blue Point schools and later graduated from St. John the Baptist High School, has also taken to farming — in his backyard. He’s growing fruits and vegetables, and raising three chickens.
“Chris has said that he appreciates life so much more in the wake of his cancer diagnosis,” Anthony Bruno said. “While Chris has had moments of tremendous struggle, both physically and emotionally, he has also had moments of great clarity, where he found so much love and appreciation for his family, friends, and even the support and love from strangers and acquaintances.”
Chris Bruno’s chiropractor, Dr. Freddie Morales of Prime Performance Chiropratic in Ronkonkoma, is giving him free chiropractic service for the remainder of the year. The Pizzeria in Bayport never lets Chris Bruno pay for his order; the eatery even sent pizzas to his doctors and nurses at New York Blood & Cancer Specialists following his final treatment in June.
Most of all, family is what strengthens Chris Bruno during his fight against cancer, his brother said.
“My parents (Russ and Addie) did an amazing job helping Chris find the best doctors and helping him manage his appointments,” Anthony Bruno said. “Our mom has been so strong in dealing with the high emotions of the situation within our immediate and extended family. Our father has done so much to help Chris, taking him to all of his chemo/radiation appointments.
“Chris’s fiance, Kiara, provided Chris with tremendous support through his darkest days, always showing him that there was a light on the other side of cancer,” Anthony Bruno continued. “Chris’ niece and nephews (my three children) provided Chris with so much joy and laughter, and he always looks forward to seeing them, even when he isn’t feeling his best.”
About the run
Anthony Bruno will begin his tribute run bright and early on Saturday, about 6:30 a.m. He will run west along Montauk Highway, through Sayville, Oakdale and into Islip, before running north on Connetquot Avenue. From there, he’ll go west on Veterans Highway, then turn on Nicolls Road before finishing on his brother’s block in Islandia.
He will listen to a playlist filled with songs that inspire him and remind him of his brother. Following Anthony Bruno along the way will be his parents and girlfriend, Sarah Palatucci.
“They will be my water/Gatorade station on wheels,” he said.
Photo atop story: From left, Russ Bruno and his wife Addie, with their sons Anthony and Chris.