Name: Dean “Dino” Bruno
Occupation: Chief Operating Officer @ American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc.
Wife: Cathy Bruno
Dogs: Tucker, Bonnie, & Saoirse
Place of Birth: Bronx, NY
Hometown: Yaphank, NY
Thank you Lou for thinking of and allowing me to share my story. My life has been quite a journey and filled with many an experience. I have some big shoes to fill this week.
My story begins as I’m reading a book about the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in our basement in mid May 2010. The phone rings and I hear my wife, Cathy, speaking to someone. Cathy walks downstairs and conveys that it’s Dr. Bilfinger, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery of Stony Brook University Hospital. I say hello and he says that he has good news in that I have Hodgkins Lymphoma.
But, I digress.
I was born in the Bronx in June 1970 to stubborn, disciplined & principled Italian parents. Mom was born and raised in Calabria, Italy, moving to the Bronx at 18 years old not knowing a word of English. My dad was born in the Bronx, served in WW II, post WWII he owned a beautician salon and cut my mom’s hair for many years before she relented and went out on a date with him. They married in 1967, and we moved to Medford in 1975, I was 5, and played baseball, football, stickball, basketball, hockey, & tennis with my neighborhood buddies for years.
My parents were extremely hard on me as I am an only child and the word sheltering comes to mind. Naive to the real world led to a broken heart or two but running always led me to clearing my mind of the noise filled world. I remember running laps in the Tremont elementary school gym in Medford until I was told to stop, running laps around my parents’ backyard in the dead of winter in high school, and in between drinking beer at SUNY Stony Brook running around campus.
After graduating from Stony Brook in 1993, living in East Moriches, I needed an outlet other than playing softball with my pals from home. I decided to sign up for the 1994 LI Half Marathon to get in better shape and help clear my mind. The half in 1994 led me to run the 1995 LI Marathon. Rookie mistakes led me to not hydrate enough, not pacing correctly, and I bonked the last 10k but finished smiling. A good friend had to put me in the back of my Jeep and drove me home. I came away hooked on running.
I decided that I would train harder and read all that I could about marathoning. A love and a passion developed & I was driven to be more fit and faster. My career in financial services led me from Bohemia to mid-town NYC in 1995 at Phoenix Home Life Insurance Company to Merrill Lynch in the World Financial Center in 1999. Working in NYC put a cramp on training, but I continued running at least one marathon a year.
In 1995 I met a gal who loved to run, fell in love with her ability to run but neglected to dig deeper into who this person was. We married and I quickly learned that I made the biggest mistake of my life. After three months, I moved out and thankfully divorce and an annulment came quickly.
On December 1, 1998, upon returning home from running the NYC marathon I came home to learn that my dad was taken away by ambulance and passed away. More on that later in the week, but it left me hardened and numb. Luckily for me I had met the love of my life in July of ’98 who helped me get through the tough times. Cathy Conlon Bruno & I married in April of 2001, and began our lives together in Yaphank.
Little did we know that five months later on 9.11.01 our lives would be forever changed. Cathy was working at 7 World Trade Center while I worked across the street in the south tower of the World Financial Center. I’ll discuss this day and the impact on our lives on Friday.
Post 9-11, I began working locally and my dedication to training increased & I was blessed to qualify for and run Boston six times. I’ll write about what running Boston has meant to me tomorrow.
Back to the basement conversation with Dr. Billfinger. He conveyed that I had masses in my neck, stomach, lungs, and chest extremely close to my aortic valve and heart. Dr. Billfinger was thrilled with the news based on what he thought my plight appeared to be. I conveyed to him that Hodgkin’s didn’t sound like good news and that I didn’t feel like a lottery winner.
I hung up the phone and Cathy and I chatted for a bit. Dr. Billfinger had already told her the news. My plan was to meet my savior – Dr. Michael Schuster in the Stony Brook Cancer Center in the coming days. Two thoughts keep flowing through my small brain – I want my life back, and no matter how long it takes, come hell or high water, I will requalify and run Boston.
Thank you for reading the summary of my life as you will be my psychologists over the coming days. My buddy Jason Marc has tried to get me to open up for quite some time. It is hard for me my friend. I’ve been hardened over time & this writing experience will hopefully help me drop some of the walls that I’ve created.
The photo below is one that I’ve never shared before – post op of biopsy surgery back in May of 2010. My face illustrates the attitude that I tried to maintain over the years.