Adam Burris (left) and girlfriend Lexi (Alexa) Blooding visiting the Wingspan office.

Wingspan Staff

March 14, 2013, 1:05 p.m.

Not a solo fight for musician

LCCC student diagnosed with leukemia

Sometimes, bad things happen when you least expect it. Your dog runs away. You drop your toothbrush in the toilet. You receive a harsh diagnosis.

The latter happened to strike third-semester Laramie County Community College music major Adam Burris at age 20. However cruel a sentence he received, it may have been eased by a supportive music department that desperately missed his smiling face.

Having moved from Cortez, Colo., Burris was a music performance major on tuba, along with being an accomplished trombonist and vocalist, performing in the Wind Symphony, the Jazz Band, Cantorei ensemble, Collegiate Choir and Men's Ensemble.

Then, in November, Burris began becoming more and more ill. For a healthy young man who kept himself in good shape, it was quite a blow to be so ill. His major complaint was his gums, which had become so inflamed that he resorted to a diet mostly of mashed potatoes.

Several different dentists had no idea what was wrong. Finally, the last dentist Burris visited recommended a checkup by Health Reach. When Burris obliged, he was sent to the emergency room and was admitted to the hospital.

On Dec. 6, Burris was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, and two days later, he started his chemotherapy treatments.

Chemotherapy, which kills all fast-producing cells, makes the patient very weak and susceptible to diseases that can wreak havoc with the weakened immune system.

After Burris underwent chemo, he was diagnosed with Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) bacterial infection. It is unsure whether he already had it or the chemo caused it, but it did not help with improving his white blood cell count.

Burris, who spent a total of 53 days in the hospital, including his 20th birthday, was released on late on Feb. 8.

Not in it alone

The LCCC music department was stunned when one of its own was so sick, especially because Burris was such an involved member of the department. Four different music majors decided to show their support through a new hairstyle. Burris is sporting a shaved head at the moment, a byproduct of his treatment. So music majors Meghan Blanton, Damon Blanton, Grant Drinnen and Garth Lilly joined him by shaving their heads, too. Some in the department who did not want to or could not go bald decided that because the “color” for leukemia support is orange, they put streaks of orange in their hair.

In fact, the entire department rallied behind Burris, raising donations for him at performances and visiting him in the hospital.

The period of time when Burris did not have family with him, a music major, or two, or three stayed in his room. ¬¬

Burris is working to regain his lost strength. Weighing about 160 pounds when he was hospitalized, he dropped to 121 pounds during his treatment. Since his release, he began working out again and has gained some of his lost weight, bringing him to 144 pounds. He still becomes tired faster than before. A few hours after his release, Burris commented that a set of stairs kicked his butt.

The Burris family is one who relies more on homeopathic, natural medicine. When Burris was diagnosed, he commented to his sister, “I am not afraid to get better.” Burris was one of the few in his family to undergo hospital treatment and plans to return to homeopathic remedies and will return to chemo only if it is absolutely necessary. Instead he plans to use juicing, Life Force products, and frequency treatments combined with a more sensitive view of germs rather than put the poison that is chemo back into his body.

Burris, who comes from a family of five brothers and three sisters, is the second youngest. His distance from his family was an added hardship during his hospitalization. His mother and one of his brothers drove nine hours to Cheyenne when he was first diagnosed to stay with him until they had to leave. Then another brother came up to stay for a while. However, during one period Burris had no family with him in the hospital.

The distance combined with the medical bills has put a heavy load on the Burris family. A Facebook page has been set up in Burris’ honor, called “Adam's Angels,” where donations to help the Burris family are taken.

Getting his footing back

Today Burris commented: “I'm doing much better. But my immune system is about a seven if everyone else’s is a 10. I'll never be a 10 again.”

Burris also recognized that the hospital brought out a more pessimistic side in him, and he is working to regain the bright cheeriness for which the music department of LCCC knows him.

Adam is returning to Cortez; however, he plans to return next semester to finish his degree and then move on to Fort Lewis to further his education.