News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 2, 2014
Brooklin teen challenges health odds
U76 special ed. director to run Boston marathon in his honor

Special Services Direcotr OJ Logue and Brandon Higgins

Union 76 Special Services Director OJ Logue, left, pictured with Deer Isle-Stonington High School student and Brooklin resident Brandon Higgins. Higgins has an inoperable brain tumor. Logue will be running the Boston Marathon in honor of Higgins, raising money for brain cancer research.

Photo courtesy of OJ Logue

by Jessica Brophy

When Louanne Higgins of Brooklin brought her son Brandon to the eye doctor in January of 2011, she was not expecting Brandon to need an MRI and she certainly was not expecting to hear the news that he has an inoperable brainstem glioma, or tumor.

“It was shocking,” said Higgins. “You’re never the same after you get the memo that your child has cancer.”

Brandon underwent radiation therapy from January to April of 2011, Higgins said. Though a tumor like his is incurable, Brandon has already surprised his doctors with his; though gliomas are usually very aggressive, Brandon’s did shrink during treatment and there has been very little growth or change in the tumor, said Higgins.

“He was given 12 to 18 months to live,” she continued. “Usually this kind of tumor grows rapidly. The doctors say we’re in uncharted waters. They’re not sure what to expect.”

Brandon goes every three months for an MRI to check the tumor. Higgins said he has had his “ups and downs” but that he has remained “fairly positive.” Higgins said Brandon has done some public outreach talking about how quickly life can change.

For Higgins, Brandon’s diagnosis has changed things for the family. “Each holiday is made special, because we don’t know if it’s his last one,” she said.

While it has been hard for Brandon to spend so much time in hospitals, she said it’s even harder for him to see “little, little kids at the hospital” with cancer.

Higgins said her faith, and Brandon’s, has helped over the course of Brandon’s illness. “God’s had his hand on this,” said Higgins. “Brandon’s never feared if he died because of his religious belief.”

It hasn’t been easy, though, especially with Brandon missing so much school. Earlier this year, the Deer Isle-Stonington CSD school board voted to allow Brandon to participate in graduation, though he will be short on credits, which he plans on making up in the summer.

Community support has been wonderful, said Higgins. “Especially here in Brooklin,” she continued. “There have been benefit dinners, the Brooklin church has helped us with different financial pieces, and the Brooklin Boat Yard has been wonderful.” Higgins, who works as the Brooklin School’s administrative assistant, said the school board also allowed her to take a year-long leave of absence and return to her job.

Very little is known about gliomas like Brandon’s, and Higgins said very little money is spent on researching gliomas and children’s cancer in general.

That is why, she said, Brandon was so pleased when OJ Logue, the Union 76 special education director, asked Brandon if he could run the 2014 Boston Marathon in his honor, to raise money for cancer research.

“Brandon was very honored,” said Higgins.

Logue has been a marathon runner for 30 years and is turning 58 this month. He’s run the Boston Marathon before, and has always wanted to go back. After last year’s bombing, he felt the urge even more strongly.

“I wanted to make this a meaningful run,” said Logue, who doesn’t expect to run many more marathons after this one. Logue will be running in Brandon’s honor to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, dedicated specifically to brain cancer research.

Runners in the Boston Marathon either qualify in other runs or can take one of the spots designated for running for charity. These spots are highly coveted by charities, said Logue. Logue applied for a spot, and was one of three accepted by Expect Miracles Foundation. He is expected to raise at least $7,500, but hopes to raise $10,000 total.

“I’m really excited,” said Logue, who said his biggest challenge is getting up in the morning and running. “I’m not a morning person, but it’s hard to run at nighttime.”

Logue got to know Brandon through his duties in the school system, and wanted to do something special.

This spring’s bombing at the Boston Marathon has not swayed Logue’s interest in participating. If anything, he says it’s more important to get out there than ever.

“There’s no fear among runners,” said Logue. “You never want to be afraid of a threat like that. Boston is the epitome of marathons. I think this year will be the largest field ever.”

Last year, Logue was scheduled to run in the New York City Marathon, which was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.

It’s not that Logue doesn’t take the threat seriously; he himself noted that one of the places where a boy died along the route was the same location from which his parents used to watch him run.

“People will come forward as a testimonial that no one will scare us away,” said Logue.

Logue said the time available to him to fundraise is limited, since he must train and also has a lot of commitments as special education director. He’s open to any suggestions for fundraisers, and hopes anyone interested in donating to the effort will visit the site.