From left: Julien Williams, Adam Burns, Kalie Cunningham, Taylor Brooks, Bailey Brooks and Natalie Pitylak. Adam’s close friends came to celebrate his graduation with him. Photo by Shelby Stewart.
By Shelby Stewart
Since 2009, Adam Burns describes his life as going down hill.
His parents divorced in 2010, following that his family had to move three times due to not being able to afford their place of living, finally ending up in his grandparent’s home. In that time, his mother, Joy Burns, had battled and beat breast cancer, adding to the financial struggle. In late 2016, his grandmother passed away, and after losing the love of his life, his grandfather didn’t want to eat or do anything, just for his wife back. He had to be taken to the hospital, and then to a nursing home to keep him in good health.
In September of 2017, doctors found a tumor on the side of Joy’s head, and tried more than five different surgeries to remove the cancer from her brain, however, the current tumor she has is inoperable and too big for radiation. The doctors are giving her 1-2 months before the cancer runs it’s course and Joy passes.
“I hope the best for her,” said Adam, 17, a Brandon High School senior. “We’re just hoping for a miracle at this point.”
Joy has been in and out of the hospital for months, and voiced to one of her doctors that she wanted to see her son graduate high school, but feared she wouldn’t live long enough to see it.
So, on March 29, in a physical therapy gym on the fourth story of Genesis Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Adam graduated.
Staff members and fellow students alike were present. Brandon High School Principal Dan Stevens, five students, along with the BHS band director leading a handful of band members in “Pomp and Circumstance.” Several close friends, family members and family friends greeted the graduate.
The ceremony was recorded for Joy—far too overwhelming to attend in person.
“It’s been a long ride, a lot of hard work, there were times I didn’t think I was going to make it,” said Adam. “But I persevered—four years fly by.”
Currently, Adam and his brothers are trying to sustain a household on their own. The three work, but a minimum wage job doesn’t go very far to cover bills. Adam started the GoFund me page to help pay medical bills as well as household bills that they could not afford back in December. So far about $6,000 has been raised for his family.
“She’s very sweet, she’s kind, she’s strong,” said Adam. “She’s been through a lot.”
Though Adam will still need to finish out the school year, and graduate with the Brandon Class of 2018 this June, he has completed some classes at Oakland Community College and was recommended for a job at Suburban Ford in Waterford, where he will begin working on cars within the next few weeks.
“I’m looking forward to making money,” he said. “I’ve been around cars all my life, I used to build nitro RC cars. I wanted to take it to the next level.”
Though Adam is looking forward to being out of high school, he admits he will miss some parts of it.
“I’ll miss being with all my friends,” he said. “I like to talk to all my teachers, I’ll miss my bus driver.”
The GoFund me page is still up, and anyone looking to help out the family can donate at gofundme.com/the-burns-family-medical-fund. Also, from 4 p.m.-close, April 24, Jet’s Pizza, 11 S. Ortonville Road, will host a fundraiser where 50 percent of all sales will go to help the family.
“My brother has really helped out a lot,” said Adam. “He’s really taking a step forward, all of my mom’s friends, Pam, Kelly, my girlfriend Kalie, my friends and teachers. Kalie’s parents gave me a place to stay, rides, food, clothes. They’ve been a big help. I just have to push through.”