Jack Burns perseveres despite cancer and gets black belt


Jack Burns is a fighter.

Monroe County Community College Campus Planning and Facilities Director is passionate about the tae kwon do martial art. This passion has not abated, despite Burns’ continued battle with stage four bladder cancer.

After overcoming years of medical treatment, physiotherapy and training, Burns took a big step in his tae kwon do training last week when he received his black belt from Bermooser Tae Kwon instructor Mark Bergmooser. Do.

“I started, so I wanted to finish what I had started,” Burns said. “I don’t like to leave things unfinished… I learned that from my mom and dad. For me, it was an unfinished business, so I had to finish it.

Jack Burns reviews a series of forms during a recent taekwondo class at Monroe County Community College.
Jack Burns and Olivia Latray work on self-defense techniques in the Bergmooser Tae Kwon Do class at Monroe County Community College.  Both students earned their black belts last week.

Burns had started his one-year tae kwon do training when he was diagnosed with devastating cancer in November 2016. He underwent major surgery to reconstruct his bladder, which required him to stop training for six months. . After a short return, the cancer had reached stage three and he had to take longer to undergo chemotherapy.

At that time, doctors were giving Burns a 15% chance of living.

“They said either the immunotherapy was working or they would call a hospice,” he said.

Fortunately, the immunotherapy worked. But it left Burns so weak he could barely stand or walk.

“So I basically had to rebuild my strength and relearn how to walk and stuff,” Burns said. “My aerobic activity was to go out and walk my aisle for a few laps and that’s all I could do. It was like running a marathon for me.

Despite the seemingly endless obstacles he had to overcome, Burns maintained a positive outlook. It’s a quality his instructor says he really admires.

“He’s an inspiration, he really is,” Bergmooser said. “He kept his faith, and as a Christian, it’s empowering to see someone with that positive attitude like he did.”

Olivia Latray and Jack Burns are judged by Emerson Bergmooser third degree black belt, Frank Stasa fourth degree black belt, Mark Bergmooser fifth degree black belt, and Mark Gladieux third degree black belt in the Latray and Burns black belt test.  The test (far left) is third degree black belt Presley Bergmooser.

Bergmooser, who has been teaching this class at Monroe County Community College since 1998, said the philosophy of tae kwon do is to leave the class a better person than the one you started. He said he tailors his teaching styles to the individual.

“I treat everyone differently,” he explained. “I have standards, but I’m going to teach the individual and find their weak spot, challenge them and push them. Not in an effort to exploit it, but in an effort to get you over it.”

Bergmooser said it was inspiring to see Burns return to his classroom every time between surgeries or treatments.

“He was able to keep his positive attitude throughout it all,” Bergmooser said. “He never used cancer as an excuse. Honestly, I probably ended up talking about it a bit more than he did. Finally, I had to stop.

Burns said practicing taekwondo helped relieve stress and regain strength. He described it as a good distraction and said his wife DeeAnn and their daughters Riley, Maysie and Kinsley encouraged and supported him throughout the process, questioning him about shapes and combinations and watching him go. lead.

The entire Burns family was there to watch him take his exam last week.

After performing numerous taekwondo combinations and reciting names and shape meanings, Burns was awarded the coveted black belt. As is customary in practice, the belt should first be attached to the instructor and then passed to the student.

Burns began to cry when Bergmooser tied the black belt around his waist, and his family and friends who came to see him lined up to congratulate him.

He plans to continue practicing the Korean Martial Art for as long as he is able and hopes to use his story to inspire others who are battling cancer or one of the trials of life to keep hope and persevere.

“Every morning I get up and look at myself in the mirror and I’m like ‘I’ve got another day so here’s a chance for me to make a difference,’” Burns said. “Miracles are still happening. Look what God did. He pulled me out of my deathbed and here I am.

Jack Burns three years ago at a Relay For Life event.  Burns weighed only 150 pounds at the time, due to his cancer metastasis.  His eldest daughter, Riley, pushed him into a wheelchair for the Survivor Tour that year.  Courtesy photo

For more information on taekwondo at Monroe County Community College, contact the Office of Lifelong Learning at 734-384-4127.

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