CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - Less than a year ago, Miami Hurricanes right fielder Michael Burns didn’t know if he would ever play baseball again, but he refused to let a cancer diagnosis get in the way of his dreams.
Burns, the baseball team’s No. 44 player, had been diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and last April he underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his left leg. “I had my first surgery and didn’t know I had cancer,” he said. “I didn’t know it until about a week after I had gotten the tumor taken out that it actually came back worse than they thought.”
Now all he has left are surgery scars. “I will always have scars in my body to remind me that it’s there,” he said. “I’ll never take anything for granted again, probably. When your life gets turned, it’s kind of how I felt.”
Burns went through 37 radiation treatments, and doctors inserted a metal rod in his leg, from the bottom of his hip to the top of his knee.
At the time, he was a student at Cisco College in Texas. He had a scholarship offer to come to the University of Miami, and school officials stuck by their commitment.
“This kid is one mentally tough son of a gun,” said Hurricanes associate head coach Gino DiMare. “This is a guy that I want playing for us … so it was kind of a no-brainer. We just knew that this was the kind of guy we wanted.”
Burns said it was his best friend, ‘Canes pitcher Jeb Bargfeldt, who first noticed a bump on his leg. “We went out to eat, and just jokingly said something, ‘Hey, have you shown your mom that thing that growing on your leg?'” said Bargfeldt. “The ball started rolling after that, and I’m thankful I did.”
Burns credits his doctors for, not only saving his leg and his athletic career, but also his life. He will be the starting right fielder in the Hurricanes’ season opener, Friday.
“I am playing for my story,” he said. “I’m playing for other people across the country, playing for every kid that’s going through cancer, and that’s why I never felt like I wasn’t going to play.”
Burns is in the five-year window of remission. Doctors will test every six months for any recurrence of cancer.
The survival rate for sarcoma after five years is 88 percent.
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