Page 25

I had neighbors and folks from the military community watching the girls, caring for our dog, bringing us food and offering to help in any way they could. Aaron received texts, calls and letters from friends all over the world – even those that were deployed to the desert. It was a truly moving experience.”

ieutenant Colonel Aaron Burgstein 1995 went to the doctor in February 2010 for what he thought was a ruptured disc in his neck. Driving back to work, within 20 minutes of leaving the MRI, his doctor called to tell him they had found a brain tumor. The hardworking father of two girls was busy with a wonderful family and a successful career in the United States Air Force running a 150-person squadron. The news, he says, was like a punch to the chest. Just eight days after his diagnosis, he underwent a five-hour surgery for the jellyfish-like tumor. The surgeons at Medical University of South Carolina successfully removed 40 percent of it. Burgstein endured six weeks of radiation which was followed by six months of chemotherapy. “I would not wish brain surgery upon anyone,” says Burgstein, then-commander of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in the USAF. But he survived. And that, he says, had been his number-one goal. The neurosurgeon performed “miraculous work,” he says. “The scar is barely visible and more importantly I can walk, move, and hold my girls.” Mostly now it is only barbers who ask him about the line across his skull. Though Burgstein may have faced his diagnosis fearlessly, it was an intense and emotional time for the family. Burgstein describes his wife, Cindy, as “phenomenal” and “amazing” in leading the family during this event in their lives. “She kept it together for the family.” When she first learned that her husband would have to undergo brain surgery to remove the tumor, Cindy said her first thoughts were dire. “I wondered what I was going to do with my life and the girls when he was gone and then I thought about all of the time he would miss watching the girls grow up,” says Cindy. She coped, she says, by taking one day at a time. A very strong family always ready to help them also was critical to their survival, she says. “It was amazing to see such a huge community outreach,” says Cindy. Friends whom they had met all over the world during a combination of deployments and assignments in the U.S., Japan, Korea and Germany, reached out to them. It spurred in the healing process. “We were only in Charleston for a few months and

Their daughters, Naomi, now 8, and Talia, 6, did not fully grasp the magnitude of the situation. “I told them that Dad had a booboo in his head and the doctors needed to fix it,” says Cindy. “I let them know that he would need our help for a little while so the boo-boo could heal. They were able to understand enough to help out and stay strong. The toughest part for them was the fact that the drugs altered Aaron's moods and it was difficult for us all to be patient with each other. He took a drug that the doctors

Aaron describes his wife, Cindy, as “phenomenal” and “amazing” in leading the family during this event in their lives. “She kept it together for the family.” referred to as ‘grumpy pills’. With two small children and a dog in the house, grumpy is not easy to take. I just wanted my husband back.” As a way to cope and to heal, Burgstein returned to running as soon as his doctors gave the okay. The 41-year-old always loved running, something he considers a social sport. He started out slowly, gradually increasing to longer runs. While learning to live with headaches more intense than migraines, pain when chewing and emotional exhaustion, the running helped him to focus on attainable goals. “I’m probably a bit obsessive about it,” he says. It was a hobby he shared with close friends and Cindy. “She has run with me through thick and thin, good times and bad and through my current fight,” says Burgstein, who earned a degree in communications at Ursinus. After the surgery, he lost almost 50 pounds. It wasn’t the chemo that made him drop the weight, he says. Though six months of food aversions and slight nausea contributed, he believes the weight loss was the result of the running and an improved diet. “There’s a freedom to running – it can be just you and the road,” says Burgstein, who tries to run 30 miles a week. “It’s just you and your thoughts. I get some solitude, some quiet and some time to think, which helps with my recovery.” fall 2012 Page 23

Ursinus Magazine - Fall 2012  

Fall 2012 edition of the Ursinus Magazine