On Aug 31, Brannan of DeWitt celebrated the sixth anniversary of his final chemo session. He’s convinced that the care he received at Sparrow is a large part of why he can look forward to turning 50 on Feb. 24. His non-Hodgkin lymphoma, discovered in 2010, is in remission “Thanks largely to Sparrow, I got a second chance at life,” Brannan said. 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 African-American 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.”
Speaking of second chances, Brannan, who is a professor of education technology at Central Michigan University, founded a charter school in north Lansing – Blended Learning Academies, a secondary high school for at-risk youth. He was inspired, in part, by his adopted son’s experience in conventional public schools.
Tim Brannan celebrates two birthdays – the day he was born and the day he received his final chemotherapy treatment at the Sparrow Cancer Center.
“We had just adopted a bouncing baby 14-year-old from Flint, and when Josh hit the DeWitt School System it was like hitting a brick wall, and so I recognized the fact that kids don’t all learn the same and we had to provide a different opportunity.”
The school opened in fall 2014, with an enrollment of 52. In 2015 there were 67 students, and that number is now in the mid-80s. The school recently held its first graduation. Fifteen students at Blended Learning Academies completed all requirements needed to earn high school diplomas. “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.”
As for Brannan’s personal battle for a second chance … that began one May day in 2010 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.”
The diagnosis was Stage 3 lymphoma.
“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 the Sparrow Cancer Center. More tests were ordered and by the following week, as the results of the diagnostic tests were still coming in, Brannan’s 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. … I don’t know why anybody would want to go anywhere else.”