Upbeat attitude helps Fairmont junior beat cancer


Photo: Laura Hutchens

Fairmont junior Tim Brooks is shown recently at work in his Interactive Media program. A few months ago, Tim wore a bandana (inset) to keep his head warm after losing his hair during treatment for cancer. Brooks is now considered cancer-free.

By Dalton Smith, Flyer Staff

You may not know Tim Brooks, but you probably noticed him around Fairmont this year. He’s the tall, smiling junior who stood out because his head was completely bald … or completely bald but wrapped in a colorful bandana.

But Brooks didn’t shave his head or wear the bandana as a fashion statement – although his somewhat goofy personality wouldn’t necessarily rule that out. Instead, while some students worried about grades or girl trouble or making the team, Brooks had to worry about his life.

Interestingly, Brooks says the diagnosis of testicular cancer just before his junior year was a relief. He had found a lump at the end of his freshman year and only knew that something wasn’t quite right.

“I was really worried before they told me because there were like 10 different things it could’ve been,” he said. “I was just a wreck because it could kill me, it could not kill me, it could be an alien because it was just a lump on my body.”

Once he had more details about the cancer, Brooks was relieved. “I just kind of went ‘eh’ because testicular cancer is a really curable disease, so there’s really nothing to worry about,” he said.

Brooks thinks his family was more worried than he was. “It seems like my family reacted more strongly than I did. They’re like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ and I was like, ‘What are you guys freaking out about?’” he said. “I guess I’m not seeing the whole point behind cancer.”

The worst part about having cancer, according to Brooks, is the treatment. “The chemo and all that was not fun,” he said. “I would be out for four days and then come back and be a zombie, walking the halls feeling like I was about to throw up.”

But Brooks said the cancer didn’t really hurt once they took out the “hurtful parts,” as he called it. “The tumor is what hurt a lot, but they took it out and I was fine,” he said.

The cancer didn’t change Brooks’ life for the worse. “The ironic part is that cancer drastically improved my life, which is kind of funny,” he said.

Brooks said he just ignored the cancer and didn’t let it do anything to him. “Not much changed, except for the loss of hair and certain body parts being removed,” he said. “I just moved around the cancer. I didn’t let it push me out of the way.”

Although Brooks didn’t let cancer make him any different, he said that some people began to act differently around him after they found out that he had cancer.

Not much changed, except for the loss of hair and certain body parts being removed. I just moved around the cancer. I didn’t let it push me out of the way.”

— Junior Tim Brooks

“There were certain people who were like, ‘Oh, you have cancer. Let us feel bad for you.’ Some people were like, ‘I still don’t care. I still don’t like him,’ because they are just those kinds of people,” he said. “Other people just treated me with more respect because I am surviving something that most people don’t. Everyone in my media class actually jokes that I am invincible, now.”

Indeed, Brooks’ illness didn’t really seem to slow him down much this year. He’s been very active in Fairmont theater. He performed in The Diary of Anne Frank, proving his acting ability by playing a menacing Nazi. Brooks said he really likes going up on stage and performing. “I enjoy entertaining people and just the fun of being on stage,” he said. “It just feels amazing.”

Brooks also is very involved in the Interactive Media program at Fairmont. He says he’d like to pursue some type of career that involves movies or television.

Fairmont’s program seems like a good fit for Brooks. “I like the experience and working with pretty much all of my best friends,” he said. “It is just something that I enjoy doing.”

Laura Hutchens, the Interactive Media teacher, said she also loves having Brooks in class. In fact, she teared up when talking about the emotional impact the junior has had on her.

“I made a promise to myself that I was going to make this year count,” Hutchens said. “I was thinking, ‘What if this is the last year this kid is going to be here?’ I have no control over that, but I do have control over making this experience the best experience that I can make for him.”

She said she wants to try to continue to use that inspirational approach to life in her classes from now on. “I don’t always want it to be the fact that I have a Tim in class who is sick,” she said. “But I want to honor him and his fight by continuing to approach teaching like, ‘What if this is the last year we have together?’ and making it the best that we can possibly make it because that’s just a great way to live. That is a gift that Tim has given me.”

In February, doctors informed Brooks that he’s cancer-free, although he can’t technically say he’s in remission until March 24. “It feels pretty good to be close to remission,” he said.

Brooks dealt with his cancer with his optimistic attitude, and he recommends that other people with cancer do the same. “Stay strong, stick through it. Just keep up a smile, because that’s what really helps,” he said. “If you have a sense of humor, use it a lot because the doctors were really impressed that I kept a good mood through all of it. Just persevere, don’t let it get you down or it will take you down.”