Before 16-year-old Brandon Thomas dreamed of playing professional football, being a superhero was all he talked about. With age, he soon realized flying through the sky like Superman wasn't likely. However, it turns out he has superpowers after all. His fierce determination, unwavering strength, and positive attitude make him a force against bone cancer and overcoming amputation.
"I knew I had to stay positive to beat this. I'm here because I have that drive," said Brandon.
Last week, Brandon put on his #28 Central Valley High School football jersey for the first time in more than a year and joined hands with teammates on the field. It's a moment Brandon and his family have waited for since receiving the devastating diagnosis in March of 2020.
"It was very emotional. So happy to see him on the sidelines," said Brandon's mom, Melanie.
Last year, while running track, Brandon's ankle started to hurt. The pain and swelling never subsided, so he went to the doctor for an x-ray and an MRI. In just a few days, doctors diagnosed Brandon with osteosarcoma.
"The doctor went onto explain I had a tumor in my ankle. I was just empty, and I didn't know how to feel," said Brandon.
"When he found out that day, he looked at me and said, 'Mom, if I have to lose my foot, I don't care. I want to live," said Melanie.
By the following week, Brandon started chemotherapy. Brandon decided without hesitation for doctors to amputate given the location of the tumor and the chance of cancer spreading or coming back. In May, just six days before his 16th birthday, surgeons amputated his right lower leg.
"I was so impressed with Brandon's thoughtful approach to saving his life," said Brandon's dad, Devon.
Every superhero needs a sidekick, and for Brandon, that backup took the shape of friends, family, and strangers from across the country. When he craved Pop-Tarts and Jolly Ranchers during chemo, boxes of the sweet treats magically appeared on their front door. A GoFundMe account helped pay for out-of-pocket expenses and other essentials. Professional athletes sent well wishes.
"We feel so blessed to live in a community that steps up. We wouldn't be here without the community. There were so many boxes at our door. I just thought, man, this kid is loved," said Devon.
In all, Brandon has undergone three major surgeries, seizures, 28 weeks of chemotherapy, and spent more than 100 nights in the hospital. Despite it all, Brandon never lost hope, channeling his competitive nature, typically reserved for the football field, into fighting for his life. And he won.
"It was a switch from sports to something bigger," said Brandon.
Brandon is now in remission and recently received his permanent prosthetic. He's training with his brother, running drills, and getting stronger and faster every day. And he’s just getting started.
"I wouldn't bet against the kid for anything," said Devon.