Brandon Thomas was born to play football. That’s why even losing his leg to cancer couldn’t keep him off the field
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you Brandon Thomas was born to play football.
While he played other sports to keep up his quickness and speed, getting on the gridiron was his number one priority. He even joined the track team his sophomore year after an All-GSL season to stay in shape.
During that time something went wrong. His mother Melanie Thomas said he was doing box jumps and thought he sprained his ankle really bad. So, they did what athletes normally do: iced it and elevated it.
It wasn’t getting better so they went to get it checked out. An X-Ray turned into an MRI. Within two days, Brandon got the news that this ankle injury was much more than a sprain. It was actually going to change his entire life.
“I’m thinking, ‘Dang, I may have really fractured this. Am I out for the season?’ And little did I know it was something completely different and way worse,” Brandon said.
It was cancer.
“As a parent, you never ever fathom that you’re going to hear, your child has cancer,” Melanie said.
The Thomas family said the room was filled with emotions as they got the news. They were speechless and stunned. It was Brandon’s strength that eventually brought them back and brought a sense of calmness.
Melanie said her son looked at her and said if he had to lose his leg to live, that it would be okay.
“By the grace of God, does your kid make a statement like that and it brings you back around to go, ‘you’re right this is about you living,'” Melanie said.
Brandon and his team went to work. He even breezed through the first half of chemo. Then came the hard part: amputating his lower right leg.
Bradon said there were so many things that came with the amputation. One of the biggest things was phantom limb pain.
“It hurt so bad,” Brandon said.
After that, it was immediately more chemo. His father Devon said it hit Brandon like a ton of bricks. It was everything they had missed in the first half of treatment.
“It’s disgusting, and I did not like it. But, I knew that it was an important part, so that’s why I didn’t really fight it,” Brandon said.
Through the pain, nausea, and misery, Brandon fought for his life head-on with a trademark smile on his face.
“I knew that if I didn’t stay positive then the negative stuff would creep in and that’s not how I wanted my life to be. Also, the positive things that happened in my life helped. The times with my mom, the parade that I had, those amazing positive things kept me going,” Brandon said.
Finally, after nine-month, Brandon’s chemo was over.
“Once his body cleared it out of his system and you started seeing hair growth and those things, that’s when we started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” Devon said.
For Brandon that light included the possibility of returning to the football field. It wasn’t just his love for the game that made him want to return. It was something much more important.
“For him, it was a realization of, ‘I’m not going to let cancer take football from me,” Devon said.
Brandon wanted to get back in the action and prove the doubts he had about not being good enough were things he’d never have again. It was to prove that when he got knocked down he could get back up.
He did just that.
In September, Brandon walked onto the football field in Eastmont as the starting linebacker for the Central Valley Bears.
“Ecstatic… it was… I get goosebumps. I got goosebumps. Just the crowd, the hearing my name, even after we lost– I love it. I loved it,” Bradon said.
That was just the beginning of Brandon tackling his goals.
He made it to the end of the season and into a playoff run. He’s still on the starting lineup. He hasn’t missed a game and while he’s on the field he hardly misses downs. His coach said he’s one of the leading tacklers.
“It’s an amazing story,” said head coach Ryan Butner.
It’s an amazing story that doesn’t end there. The defensive star got in on offense and scored his first career touchdown almost exactly a year after he finished chemo.
“He went through hell –it was painful for him physically emotionally. And, equally so for our family as well. But, to see it now and go, ‘man, a year ago we didn’t think about a year from now.’ We were thinking about tomorrow and what do we have to do,” Devon said.
Right now, Brandon is firmly focused on beating Richland to help get the Bears into state playoffs.
As for that bigger opponent, Brandon has already won.
“I don’t think about it much. There are so many other things I think about now: school, friends, football, stuff I didn’t think I’d be able to think about. And now that I’m able to it’s so much better,” Brandon said with a laugh.
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