Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand revealed over the weekend that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that has spread to his brain and back.
But in typical Brand fashion, the 61-year-old—who underwent battles with testicular and skin cancer while in his 30s—vowed to defeat the disease again.
“For now, I’m just a future cancer survivor doing what he’s told by the people who deal with these challenges every day,” he declared on Facebook.
The devastating news came out of the blue for Brand, who said he felt fine recently but fell ill while on a trip to Mexico.
“It’s overwhelming and shocking but at the same time you have no choice but to absorb it and analyze it and deal with it,” Brand said in an interview Sunday, vowing to follow his doctor’s orders precisely going forward.
Brand was on a plane trip to San Jose de Cabo for the first-ever North American Mayors Summit on Friday, June 7, when he said he suffered a seizure.
“It was like I closed my eyes and opened them again,” said Brand, a chemical engineer who has worked for about 40 years as a crew chief for American Airlines.
When he woke up, the couple sitting next to him had been replaced by a woman with an oxygen tank providing him air. Brand, who said he was told said he was unconscious for about 30 minutes, felt hazy and noticed his tongue was badly bitten from the seizure.
After landing in Cabo, he spent the night at a clinic where doctors performed tests. Brand attended the conference and returned to Los Angeles on Sunday.
On Monday, he was examined by doctors in L.A. and on Wednesday underwent an MRI scan.
That evening, he got the news that a tumor had been found in his brain. Doctors also told him his stage 4 lung cancer had already spread to a vertebrae in his back. Stage 4 cancer means that it has spread to other organs and is often terminal.
“They said the neurosurgeons are waiting for you,” Brand said, “and do not drive because there’s a chance you could have another seizure.”
Upon hearing the news, his wife Dierdre flew home from Shanghai. The two have only been married a year and half. Brand has no children.
On Monday, June 17, Brand will undergo radiation treatment for the brain tumor. The doctors will also be testing to see if he matches specific biomarkers that would allow an immunotherapy treatment strategy that has shown promising signs of combating lung cancer. He said he should know whether that will be an option in about 10 days.
Brand, who said he hasn’t smoked cigarettes aside from a brief period while in high school, said he wants to use the opportunity to spread awareness about lung cancer, especially to non-smokers.
Brand also wants people to know the South Bay boasts some of the finest cancer centers available, including at the City of Hope South Bay in Torrance — at the site of the former Daily Breeze building — where Brand is receiving treatment.
“Like politics, things come to you that you don’t expect that you have to analyze quickly and make decisions quickly,” he said.
Brand said he is taking a leave from work at American Airlines but plans to continue performing his mayoral duties unless his condition worsens.
Even amid the jolting news, Brand was eager to talk city government on Sunday. He said he intended to continue taking on local issues, especially the proposed park at the former AES power plant site, a concept Brand has spent the past 20 years touting.
“The South Bay needs that park,” he said. “I will continue to fight for that until it’s either there or I’m not here anymore.”
Brand said that he’d been touched by an immediate outpouring of support around the community — including from some of his political foes.
“I knew I had support,” he said, “but the depth and sincerity of it has been every bit as overwhelming as the shocking news of the diagnoses.”
Ever hopeful, Brand said he is not entertaining a “bucket list.”
“My bucket list is to continue to serve the community of Redondo Beach,” he said.