DEER ISLE, Maine — A longtime Celtics basketball fan, Brandon Higgins has never taken much of an interest in marathons.
An 18-year-old senior at Deer Isle-Stonington High School, Higgins is considering attending Washington County Community College or Central Maine Community College this fall, where he says he might pursue a career in automotive technology.
The Brooklin teenager is trying to drum up support for O.J. Logue, an administrator in School Union 76, who this weekend will run his first marathon in 20 years. Logue, a member of the Maine Running Hall of Fame, will compete Sunday in the Sugarloaf Marathon in honor of Higgins. Through the Expect Miracles Foundation, he plans to raise several thousand dollars for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Logue is doing this because Higgins has brain cancer. The young man was first diagnosed in 2011, at the age of 15, when he developed an odd eye twitch that his mother first thought was an attempt to make her laugh.
But a subsequent MRI revealed it was no laughing matter. It showed that Higgins has a tumor on his brain stem which, because of its location, is considered inoperable. Trying to remove it would be too risky.
Given an initial life expectancy of 18 to 24 months, if the tumor were left untreated, Higgins opted to have radiation therapy. It took him out of school for several months, but the tumor shrank and became inactive. He returned to school and monitored the tumor’s status with MRIs every three months.
“It made some of the side effects from it go away for a little while,” he said Wednesday during an interview at the high school.
But this spring, the tumor became active again and started showing signs of growth. This time, Higgins is getting chemotherapy, which he started this month in Brewer.
“I feel tired and lethargic a lot of the time” from the medication, Higgins said. “Plus, you still deal with the after-effects from radiation for years to come.”
Logue, 58, said Wednesday that when he first met Higgins last fall, Higgins was wearing a T-shirt that said: “Cure Brain Cancer.” Higgins is hoping to become an advocate for cancer research in pursuit of finding a cure.
Logue, who is deaf and suffered from severe asthma as a child, wanted to do something to help. He has run 30 marathons and is accustomed to doing charity runs. After getting Higgins’ approval, the two decided to set a fundraising goal of $10,000. So far they’ve raised $7,200.
“My first thought was concerns about his heart,” Higgins wisecracked. On a more serious note, he said, “I was in awe. No one’s done it before for me.”
Logue said he’s been inspired by Higgins’ fortitude and positive approach.
“A lot of people would just give up and be defeated,” he said. “Not Brandon.”
On Wednesday, students and staff at Deer Isle-Stonington High School held a pep rally for Higgins to help boost his spirits. More than 100 people walked outside to the school’s baseball field where, after Rev. Stephen York of Stonington Methodist Church recited lines from the song “Lean On Me” to the crowd, they released green and white balloons — the Celtics’ team colors — into the sky.
Contributions to Logue’s fundraising efforts can be made out to Expect Miracles Foundation and mailed to the high school at 251 North Deer Isle Road, Deer Isle, Maine, 04627. For information about Higgins’ efforts to be healthy, visit the Brandon’s Recovery page on Facebook.