When Brendan was first diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma he couldn’t pronounce it. At five years old, he lacked an understanding of why his life had become an ongoing cycle of terrible headaches, drugs that made him feel sicker, and long hospital stays. However, by the time he was eight years old, he knew that he could defeat his cancer. That was when Brendan joined Kids Kicking Cancer. He learned that he was a powerful martial artist and that he could “breathe in a powerful light and blow out all of the darkness.” Doing his breath work and martial arts moves made him more and more powerful, even as his body was becoming weaker and weaker.
As it became clear that Brendan was not responding to the therapy, Kids Kicking Cancer wanted him to know that he would always remain a teacher. One day, Rabbi G. was sitting together with Brendan’s mom Maureen and his two sisters doing a meditation. Together they were holding on to Brendan’s light. In the middle of the calm of this visualization, Maureen turned to her son. “I feel your light, Brendan. It will be with me forever.” Brendan opened his eyes and looked at his mom. His face brightened. It was important for him to know that he would always be with his mom.
On a Sunday morning in June, three-hundred family members and friends gathered at Cheyenne Elementary School in Macomb to watch Brendan receive his black belt. Although this little boy was too weak to speak, Rabbi G. shared Brendan’s words with the audience. “I am receiving my black belt because I have defeated my cancer. I am not afraid. I am not angry. If anything, I am more connected to God and the people around me.” Somehow, Brendan found the strength to stand up by himself as his teacher tied the black belt around his body. His name was embroidered on one end of the belt and the words, “Master Teacher” on the other. Three-hundred people gave Brendan a standing ovation. He looked out at the audience. He was inspiring the world. Brendan knew that he would be a powerful teacher for Kids Kicking Cancer forever.