By James Niedzinski
---- — LONDONDERRY — Brian Winer was just 22 when he was diagnosed with melanoma four years ago.
After surgery, the tumor was removed from his neck and he was declared cancer free by his doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He was told all he needed were routine skin screenings, he was going to be fine.
However, in June, Winer, now 26, received a devastating diagnosis — stage IV metastatic melanoma of the brain and lung.
Doctors discovered 12 tumors in his brain and one on his lung, although these tumors did not show up on his routine skin screenings.
It started off just like any other workday; Winer did not have any uncommon symptoms, nor show any warning signs.
“I had a mild headache that day, but when you work in a loud restaurant environment, a headache does not seem like something to worry about,” he said.
While at work as an executive chef June 16, Winer suffered a seizure, collapsing on the floor of the Crave Brassiere and Wine Bar in Amesbury, Mass.
The restaurant was awarded the Best New Restaurant in the Greater Newburyport area by the Market Surveys of America. Winer specialized in seafood and new American cuisine. He said he made the best scallops around.
Just two months later, Winer can no longer work or drive. He has no health insurance, which complicates his already dire situation.
“When you go from working 100-plus hours in a week to none, it’s a big change. I’m very bored,” Winer said. “It was the only thing I was good at, the only thing I knew how to do.”
He recently completed 15 back-to-back radiation therapy sessions in order to combat the deadly disease.
“After my radiation therapy, my hair began to fall out,” Winer said. “That was definitely one of the weirdest showers I’ve ever had.”
So far, he has had three tumors removed from his brain, but nine more remain, in addition to one on his lung.
The surgery resulted in 57 staples in his skull; a lengthy scar circles his head.
According to sister Jessica Leavitt, the radiation has robbed him of his energy, but Winer still has high hopes.
“It’s strange in a way, I feel great,” Winer said. “I’ve never felt this good while being this sick.”
Because he can no longer work or drive, Leavitt has organized fundraising events, including “Cook Up A Cure 4 Brian.”
On the morning of Sept. 15, there will be a 5K race and raffle for Winer’s benefit. Race registration will take place at the Londonderry High School track from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The race will start at 9 a.m.
Afterward, there will be a raffle, food and prizes, from noon to 4 p.m. on the town commons.
Those who wish to donate should contact Leavitt at 425-8512, or mail in donations to The Chef Brian Winer Fund, PO Box 134, Londonderry, 03053.