Meet our Heroes: Brandon Thomas
“My story isn’t over. It’s just starting.”
Brandon Thomas was a motivated high school athlete who played football and track, when doctors discovered he had cancer.
“It felt like I was in like full despair. He told me I had osteosarcoma—cancer in my right ankle—and that we would need to treat it immediately to basically save my life.”
Osteosarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer most common in teenagers and young adults.
After some chemotherapy treatments, doctors advised Brandon to have his right foot amputated to eliminate the cancer. Brandon weighed the options with his parents.
“If I got an amputation, I probably wouldn’t be able to run again or run the same,” Brandon said. “If I didn't get the amputation, then the surgeon said that I probably would walk with a limp. So how would I play football? And my brother convinced me I could still do whatever I want.”
Brandon’s mom said it was an emotional conversation. He ultimately decided he was OK with losing his foot if it meant beating cancer.
“We had to remind ourselves that the amputation was big. You’re losing a limb. But, it wasn’t the thing that was going to kill him,” Brandon’s mom, Melanie, said.
The surgery was weeks before his 16th birthday.
“I didn't think I could be normal after the amputation. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I was a normal teenager before the cancer, and I just wanted to be normal again.”
He went through months of intense chemotherapy treatments and healing after surgery.
“The caregivers went above and beyond for me. That’s what makes the children’s hospital so special. They make you feel like you're at home, even when you're in such a terrible situation.”
Brandon’s parents relied on the expertise of caregivers as they navigated tough decisions along the way.
“They were easy to trust. You could tell they knew what they were doing, that they cared and that they wanted to save our son's life,” Devon said. “What does it mean to have this level of care in Spokane? It’s a miracle.”
The journey back to the football field and track was difficult, but Brandon was determined. He learned to play sports and be active again with his prosthetic.
“What we do as a family is win,” Brandon’s dad, Devon, said. “You win by fighting. We watched Brandon take that attitude and understand losing is not an option. It’s just not an option.”
Brandon began his junior year playing football again with his teammates—and in remission. He learned to excel on the field with a prosthetic, proving he could overcome the odds.
“Brandon's superpower is his attitude and the way he attacked this,” Devon said. “It wasn't all the time. There absolutely were hard times. And when he developed seizures and experienced other chemotherapy side effects, it got bad. But he was able to pull himself out because he's such a positive person.”
This fall, Brandon is a walk-on for the Eastern Washington University football team.
“I wanted to be a D-1 football player and I never thought I was going to be able to be one after my amputation. But that one goal carried me to where I am right now,” Brandon said.
“Right now, I feel like I’m on top of the world. I would tell my past self that it does get better after what I had to go through. I’m just so happy to even be here.”