College rallies for Burns’ cancer fight

Jack Burns felt love, care, and encouragement from the MCCC family while he battled cancer.

Burns, director of Campus Planning and Facilities, was diagnosed with stage two bladder cancer in mid-Nov. The cancer was aggressive, so Burns went in for surgery on Nov. 29.

“I did not have much time to think about it,” he said.

Sue Wetzel, vice president of Administration, said it is devastating when someone gets that kind of news. The department gathered to discuss ways they could show their support. 

AJ Fischer, director of Financial Services, suggested they design bracelets to show outward support. 

The multicolored bracelets said, “No one fights alone. Team Jack.” 

“He knew we were there for him, and we were excited for him to get healthy and come back,” Fischer said.

They gave Burns a bracelet the Friday before his surgery.

“They wanted to let me know they were with me,” Burns said choking up. “I still cry over it.”

Many staff and faculty members made meals for his family. 

Jack Burns and his family enjoy Disney World last summer.

Burns said there were so many meals that his assistant, Sherry Bussell, had to create a schedule to organize the meals. Collectively, the college provided 20-30 meals. 

“He is a wonderful person and has a huge heart. He is very giving and quite possibly the most caring person I know,” Bussell said. “As he was off work, I tried to keep the maintenance department afloat as did many other members of his staff.”

Burns said he was also overwhelmed by the abundance of cards he received. He said he got between three and ten cards a day.

“While lying there in bed staring endlessly at the walls of my ICU room, listening to the monotonous beeps of the monitors attached to me, and staring at the more than dozen IV bags slowly drip, those notes and cards become way more significant,” he said.

“To me, those notes and cards were not only supportive, but a distraction from my situation.”

“Cancer is something that is scary, and you need a good support system,” Burns said. “It’s too big of an evil monster to tackle on your own.” 

Burns said he has three families: his immediate family, his church family, and the MCCC family.

Burn’s test results concluded that the cancer was contained in the bladder, so he does not have to undergo chemo therapy or radiation.

Although he is cancer free, he is not out of the woods. 

He had a complicated recovery, which lengthened his hospital stay to roughly three weeks. But Burns said his doctors are optimistic that with physical therapy, blood thinners, and time, he will be restored to full health. 

He came back to work on Jan 30. 

“I feel as good now as I did before my surgery initially, minus all the pain and complication from the cancer,” Burns said. 

He said he is striving for normalcy, but he knows some things always end up different.

He went to Tae Kwon Do class the Thursday he came back.

“I did everything but the sparring,” Burns said. “My doctor said, ‘Nope!’”

Sparring is a controlled, quick and powerful kick or punch that is stopped just before hitting the intended target. 

Burns said getting back to Tae Kwon Do class was the last piece of the puzzle.

Wetzel said Burns is not the only employee who has been blessed by the MCCC family. She said they also extend their care to everyone. 

Wetzel said the college feels like a family because the faculty, staff, and administrators have devoted their lives to education and helping people.

“That care and compassion bleeds over into everything that we do, and together we are literally changing people’s lives,” she said. “There is a bond like a family bond.”

“We are all interested in not just how we work, but then also in the other things that are happening in our lives.”
 Wetzel said that the family atmosphere is unique at MCCC because many people live in the community. 

“We know each other outside of work as well as inside of work,” she said.

People know of each other’s children and get excited when they succeed and reach milestones in life.

“It just adds something special to the work environment,” she said.

If the college was in the center of a large city, the employees may not have the same personal connection and involvement that a small community creates.

Fischer said the family atmosphere at MCCC leads to the success.

“You have to have the appreciation, love, and support of your coworkers in order to succeed individually and as an organization,” he said.

Wetzel and Fischer feel fortunate to be a part of MCCC’s family. They have both received and given the family treatment. 

Sue Wetzel and AJ Fischer wear their bracelets to support Jack Burns. 

Wetzel said her coworkers supported her during her pregnancies and raising her children. 

Fischer said he has only worked at the college for a year and already feels welcome and at home.

“It is very important to be invested in where you work,” he said. “I think we are very lucky to have that sense of family here.” 

When he returned, Burns sent an email to the staff at MCCC to express his gratitude for their support.

“Fortunate for me when I mention family I am not only talking about my immediate family, but all of you here at MCCC,” he wrote. “Having your support whether it was in your thoughts and prayers or by some other expression of love and friendship meant a lot to me.”