Lawrence youth pastor loses battle with bone cancer
In the last months of his life, Brandon White only reinforced Chad Theisen’s summation of his friend: “He’s willing to help anybody.”
On a recent road trip with Theisen, White noticed two travelers at a gas station down on their luck. White offered them $10 for gas to help them get home.
White, the youth pastor at Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt., died Wednesday morning at Kansas University Hospital after a battle with bone cancer. He was 29.
White had been struggling with pleomorphic sarcoma since he was a teenager. His first bout came during his years at Lawrence High School, when a “pulled muscle” in baseball turned out to be cancer in his right leg.
After receiving treatment, he lived nearly a decade cancer-free, attending Kansas University before graduating from a three-year ministry apprenticeship program, becoming a pastor at Heartland Community, getting married to his wife, Jody, and raising a son. In spring 2008, the cancer returned and on July 1, 2008, his right leg was amputated at the hip socket.
White said that though he had lost his leg, he knew he had gained a powerful experience that would help him spread the word of God.
“I think all these experiences I’m having in life,” White said in July 2008, “both in the ministry and in my personal life with my health … I think all those experiences are preparing me for what God has in store for me to do.”
Friend Bethany Shelton says that White didn’t just talk about using those experiences, he did it, even after his cancer reappeared for a final time in January of this year.
“His faith was very vibrant and deepened through the process,” Shelton said. “He really felt like … he really thought he had learned some lessons. He was very passionate and his faith was really real. He wanted to live to share that with people and give them hope.”
She said that was the hardest thing about his death — that he had been so eager to stay alive with the simple goal of giving hope to others.
Theisen said White had most certainly given him hope.
“I definitely think that my life is going to be changed just by knowing him and knowing his family,” Theisen said.
White is survived by Jody and their 3-year-old son. Heartland’s pastor, Paul Gray, who is Jody’s father and White’s father-in-law, said the church is accepting donations for the family through the Brandon White Cancer Fund. The family is struggling under the weight of medical bills, Gray said.
For more information on White and his fight with cancer, go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/brandonwhite.
A viewing will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday at Warren-McElwain Mortuary. Memorial services will be at Heartland Community at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.