In October of 2009, Nisswa volunteer firefighter Branden Burnard was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a rare form of cancer. He was 32.
Burnard was treated with a radiation implant to shrink the tumor in his eye. That was followed up by checkups at the Mayo Clinic every three to six months. In the spring of 2012, the cancer spread to Burnard's lungs, lymph nodes, pelvis, bladder, scalp, liver and femur. He went through a of intravenous chemotherapy that became ineffective. The next treatment was a chemotherapy pill. It held the tumors at bay for another year before it too stopped working.
A benefit for Burnard is set for 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Nisswa American Legion.
This spring, Burnard was back to the Mayo Clinic to try a drug called Yurvoy, which retailed for $75,000 per treatment. Burnard had four treatments but it didn't work for him.
Terry Pederson, who is part of the committee for the Burnard family benefit, said the Mayo Clinic nicknamed Burnard "Superman" because of his will of iron and ability to survive against all odds.
"His journey is amazing and inspiring. He and his family need help and together we can make a difference," Pederson stated.
Now the Mayo Clinic has a new drug approved in September. It costs $35,000 per treatment. Burnard expects to have several rounds of treatments.
While the family has insurance, the committee working to help the family, reports the deductibles, co-pays, cap on expenses, and travel expenses have been overwhelming.
"Both Branden and his wife April have had to take many days off of work for appointments and treatments," the committee reported. "And of course there will be many more missed days of work in the future. Meanwhile their bills keep mounting. At one point they had to make the decision to make the co-pays rather than their mortgage payments - and the bills keep mounting. The amazing thing is this man's indomitable spirit. Despite all he has been through and has had to deal with, his first concern is always for his wife, his daughters Brandy and Madison, his family, his many friends and the community he has so generously served for over a decade."
Burnard has been in the Nisswa Fire Department for 13 years. He was an assistant fire chief, and spent 12 years with the Nisswa Area First Responders, serving as president.
"He has selflessly protected our families, homes, businesses and workplaces," the committee reported. "April and his two daughters demonstrate that same indomitable spirit and together this family is truly amazing. Their faith, determination and support of one another (is) so profound."
The committee is asking for donations, items that could be added to the raffle or silent auction and for people to attend the benefit dinner. "Help this real life superman who has done so much for so many in our lakes area for a very long time."
The benefit includes games, raffle tickets, silent auction items and a pulled-pork meal.
If you go
The benefit is 4-8 p.m. Saturday, at Nisswa American Legion Post 627.
The event includes pulled-pork sandwich with beans, chips and pickles for $10.
An account for the Branden Burnard Benefit is at Black Ridge Bank in Nisswa, Brainerd and Crosslake. Donations may also be made online at www.gofundme.com/fdcg5s.