Lymphatic cancer survivor discusses chemotherapy treatment at Sparrow

Tim’s Story

On August 31 each year, Tim Brannan of DeWitt, Michigan celebrates the anniversary of his final chemotherapy treatment at Sparrow. He is a survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, discovered in 2010, and thanks Sparrow for helping fight for his life. 

“Thanks largely to Sparrow, I got a second chance at life,” Brannan said. 

His cancer journey began when he noticed a lump in his groin. The next day he went to see his primary-care Physician, who sent him to get an ultrasound. 

During the procedure he was trading jokes with the Nurse. “All of a sudden.” Brannan recalled, “she gets deathly serious on me and I’m like, ‘Oh boy, that’s not so good.’ It was like the air got let out of the room and she said, ‘Excuse me, I’ll be right back.’ A couple minutes later she came back in and said they were going to send me to Sparrow Hospital at St. Lawrence for a CAT Scan immediately.”

There, Brannan received a stage 3 lymphoma diagnosis, an advanced stage of cancer. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which helps your body fight off diseases. In addition to lumps, symptoms of lymphoma can include abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing, persistent fatigue, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss

“It had spread everywhere in my body except for my bone marrow at that point,” Brannan said.

The next day Brannan met with the oncology team at Sparrow. More tests were ordered and by the following week, as the results of the diagnostic tests were still coming in, Brannan’s lymphoma chemotherapy treatments already had begun. The Sparrow staff, Brannan said, was kind, compassionate and highly competent. 

“Sparrow had an individual plan for me,” he recalled. “Everything was laid out in a full-care plan, including treating side effects like nausea and various sores and discomforts. Brannan added: “Every oncologist that I met at Sparrow, though they came from different medical backgrounds, all shared a common interest in Tim Brannan beating cancer as an individual.” 

In recent years he has devoted much of his life to giving others second chances. Brannan and his wife, Michele, adopted two hard-to-place teenage boys. They also have two biological daughters, who, Brannan said, deserve some of the credit for the family’s decision to adopt the boys: “They gave up a piece of their mom and dad so that we could do this.”

Brannan – who is a professor of education technology at Central Michigan University – founded a charter school in north Lansing in 2014 – Blended Learning Academies, a secondary high school for at-risk youth. He was inspired by his adopted son’s experience in conventional public schools and the second chance mentality that Sparrow nurtured in him.

“I almost feel like a proud dad handing out diplomas and giving these young people a new lease on life,” Brannan said. “They’ve earned the right to go on in life with a second chance, and to make a life for themselves.”

When reflecting on his cancer journey, Brannan states, “I don’t know why anybody would want to go anywhere else.”

The Herbert-Herman Cancer Center features a multi-disciplinary team approach that puts the Patient at the center of everything we do. Patients will see a team of clinicians under one roof and in one visit, rather than making separate appointments with specialists from different practices. Each Patient will receive an individualized treatment plan with input from numerous specialists. Each major cancer has its own clinic, such as breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.

Sparrow is transforming care through innovation such as the region’s only cancer genetics counselor and access to cutting-edge clinical trials. The Herbert-Herman Cancer Center is home to the largest clinical trials program in the region and the only one accepting Phase 1-3 clinical trials not accessible to Patients anywhere else locally.

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