Brandon Burke has been such an inspiration to so many over the last seven years.At age 16, Brandon received a devastating diagnosis of Ewing Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer in his left tibia. It was a very difficult time for Brandon as well as for his family and friends. It is truly a blessing that he is now 5 ½ years post chemotherapy and doing well! Brandon received chemo from December 2007 through July 2008, with major limb salvage surgery March 2008. Brandon had always been very athletic, and with the revised leg, he would be able to walk but not even run. He also participated in a clinical trial at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD for four months following chemo.
Brandon was so strong throughout his treatment. He did all he was told to do. He felt the sicker he was from the treatment, the more it was doing for him. He believed ultimately his future was in God’s hands. His faith was visible to others.Brandon and his family met so many amazing people in this journey, people they never would have met otherwise. There are so many good people, and recognition of the good that comes out of something so horrific and holding on to your faith is what gets you through each day.
This period was also life changing for family. Mom was with Brandon 24/7 as a caregiver, Dad juggled work and visits to hospital, sister took a semester off from college to support her brother. In February 2008 St. Mark’s Community Lutheran Church, Appenzell, PA hosted an amazing fundraiser for Brandon that included his Boy Scout troop and high school football team. It was great for the family to see all the support offered to them by friends and the community.
After missing his junior year in high school, Brandon returned his senior year;however in February, a piece in his artificial knee broke. Two subsequent surgeries proved unsuccessful to restore his walking ability, and Brandon requested an amputation so he could be active again. Brandon went to prom and graduated from high school with his class! The end of June his left leg was amputated above the knee. After suffering much phantom pain and letting his leg heal, Brandon was fitted with a prosthetic leg and learned to walk again.Five months after surgery he resumed snowboarding!
Brandon attended a local college his first year and transferred to Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN his second year. It was a life-changing move for Brandon and he has met so many amazing people by openly sharing his experience and pursuing his athleticism and goals to help others. Amputee Blade Runners, Nashville, enabled Brandon to receive running equipment at no cost. ABR is a non-profit that has benefited many amputees, and Brandon now serves on the Board and works with the amputees to get them active again.He has competed in many events, including 1/2 marathons and three triathlons. Brandon served on the Vanderbilt Relay for Life Committee while attending school. He graduated Vanderbilt May 2013 with a major in Political Science with an interest in social business. He travelled to Bangladesh and India for weeks following his junior year for an internship and learned more of their prosthetic capabilities. Brandon developed a business plan that would enable low-cost prosthetics to be available for the developing world. Now, in with a west coast entrepreneur and a doctor in Canada, Brandon has formed company “Legworks” to get a low-cost knee to amputees all over the world with the goal of getting them involved socially and economically. Manufacturing is expected to begin in July.
Brandon has always been open about his experience during cancer treatment and has always made people feel comfortable about his amputation. It has not in any means been easy, but his desire to overcome has enabled him to snowboard, run, swim, bike, and surf, as well as encourage others to pursue their goals. Brandon recently attended a youth faith retreat and spoke of his experience and how his faith got him through difficult times. Despite all the challenges he had to face during his teenage years, his accomplishments have inspired many. Brandon has turned something so ugly and devastating into something so awesome and life changing for others. He truly is a blessing and we are so blessed he is doing well.