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People Magazine San Francisco correspondent to run marathon 17 months after surgery for a brain tumor

The San Francisco correspondent for PEOPLE magazine is more accustomed to writing features about others than about being the focus of one himself. But he recently signed a book deal with Tarcher/Putnam Books to chronicle his 10-year ordeal with a pituitary brain tumor. This December, just 17 months after the tumor was removed in a highly specialized, fully endoscopic operation, Baker will be back on the marathon trail, running the California International Marathon to raise money for the nonprofit Skull Base Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

LOS ANGELES (October 19, 1999) -- Thanks to state-of-the-art technology and some of the most advanced capabilities in the United States, brain surgery to remove pituitary tumors is now being done fully endoscopically and with outstanding results. Ken Baker, the San Francisco correspondent for PEOPLE Magazine, a former member of A U.S. Jr. Olympic Hockey Team, and a Division I college athlete who attended Colgate University on a hockey scholarship, had a nearly golf ball-sized pituitary tumor removed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Skull Base Institute on July 8,1998.

On Dec. 5, 1999, slightly less than 17 months later, Baker, age 29, will do something he hasn't done since 1992. He will run a marathon. And not just any marathon. This is the California International Marathon in Sacramento, a qualifying run for the Boston Marathon. Baker is calling his run "The Tread for Head" and is using the marathon to increase awareness of pituitary tumors and to raise money for a special fund at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Skull Base Institute for those who can't afford tumor-removal surgery.

"Before the tumor, I would have been focusing on speeds and times," he says."Now I'll be happy just to finish. It's great to be alive!"

Baker, who had the undiagnosed tumor at the base of his brain for at least 10 years, describes the period from 1992 to 1998 (starting just after he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC) as a "six-year blackhole."

A lifelong athlete, he then began experiencing severe headaches, had little strength and no stamina. "I could do hardly anything physical," he says. Although he had been planning to re-run the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994 and had paid entrance fees, he was too fatigued and abandoned training a few months before that race.

Then in October, 1997, after transferring to the Los Angeles bureau of PEOPLE, his tumor was diagnosed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Medical intervention began, but it soon became apparent that Baker would need a highly specialized type of surgery to remove the benign tumor, which was secreting prolactin, a female hormone that suppressed his body's testosterone production. The results of the surgery, verged on spectacular. Three days after the operation, he went home, and a little over a week later -- free of his tumor and fortified with normal male hormonal levels for the first time in nearly 10 years -- he went roller-blading at the Santa Monica beach.

Baker, who recently signed a book deal with Tarcher/Putnam Books to chronicle his ordeal with the tumor, is now training four days per week on the scenic hills and bayside flats of Marin County, California. While his biggest reason for running this marathon is to prove to himself that "he's back," he has another reason that is equally important: "I want to give back," he says. "I've been given my life back, and now I'm determined to help others by raising money for the Skull Base Institute at Cedars-Sinai. I'm hoping that the funds I raise will help other patients who need this type of surgery, but may not have insurance or the means to pay for it. Life is so much better for me after the operation, that I'd like to send the elevator back up, as it were."