Riding to Benefit Sylvester, Dolphins Great Makes Life-Saving Discovery

Former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mark “Super” Duper had a rough ride during the second annual Dolphins Cycling Challenge on November 5, 2011. He never dreamed that as he was riding his bicycle to raise money for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in memory of Dolphins great Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich, there was a cancerous tumor growing inside his own body.

“I felt discomfort during that bike ride,” Duper told reporters at a news conference January 24. He said he noted pain and trouble breathing. “I knew I was out of shape, but I wasn’t that out of shape.”

His primary physician ordered an ultrasound, which revealed a large mass in his right kidney with possible metastasis to the liver. Duper was immediately referred to urologic oncologist Mark S. Soloway, M.D., of Sylvester at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who ordered a CT scan and MRI. The scans, performed at Jackson Memorial Hospital, confirmed the diagnosis of renal cancer. A football-sized tumor was growing in the former Fins’ kidney.

Though 80 percent of those diagnosed with kidney cancer first experience blood in their urine, Duper had no symptoms other than he “wasn’t feeling the way [he] normally feels.”

“Athletes are just in tune with their body,” said Soloway, professor and chairman emeritus of urology, who also attended the news conference. “He thought there was something wrong, and he was correct.”

Soloway and his team performed a radical nephrectomy, an open abdominal incision to remove the kidney and carefully check the liver, at Jackson Memorial Hospital on January 12. They successfully removed Duper’s right kidney and were pleased to find his liver and other kidney in perfect shape.

“I’m pretty confident that he is now cured,” said Soloway, who says there is a 95 percent chance that all the cancer has been removed.

Duper is looking forward to training for the third annual Dolphins Cycling Challenge this fall, not only for his health, but also to support a cause that’s now even closer to his heart. All of the rider-generated fundraising from the DCC goes directly to cancer research and patient support services at Sylvester, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System.

“I feel like a new man,” said Duper, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on January 25. His doctors credit his positive attitude for speeding his recovery.

“Having the mental stamina to overcome the physical beating that surgery puts you through is very important,” says chief surgical resident Obi Ekwenna, M.D., who was part of Duper’s care team.

Duper was part of the “Marks Brothers” duo along with fellow Dolphins wide receiver Mark Clayton, who earned fame on the football field playing with Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was a three-time Pro Bowler in his 11-year career with the Dolphins, and he and Clayton were inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2003.

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