Friday, September 18, 2009

Young cancer sufferer chases his dream of playing in black

By TANYA KATTERNS - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 19/09/2009

BIGGEST FAN: Brad Burt says he had been ticking off the days till he got to meet his hero Richie McCaw.
BIGGEST FAN: Brad Burt says he had been ticking off the days till he got to meet his hero Richie McCaw.

Pure determination has helped Brad Burt battle through two major operations to remove a massive tumour from his brain stem.

And the young rugby fanatic was able to inspire All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, as he mixed with the players during the captain's run in Wellington yesterday.

The 10-year-old, from Greytown, who refuses to let the cancer ruin his own dream of one day wearing the black jersey, shook off memories of months of treatment to tell McCaw: "Go hard, Richie, you guys can pull this off."

Over the past 10 months, Brad has endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to rid him of the tumour. It will be December before his treatment is over and at least three years before his family know whether he has been cured.

Yesterday's meeting with "the greatest rugby team on Earth" had been a dream for some time, he said. "I've been ticking off every day in a special calendar. It has meant so much to me and it has helped me stop thinking about operations and blood transfusions and the hospital."

With the support of the Make a Wish Foundation, Brad, his older brother Josh and parents Illana and Glenn, have been given three days in Wellington, taking in the test match tonight and Brad's wish of meeting the All Blacks.

McCaw, who signed Brad's bald head, said it was a privilege to be able to put a smile on the youngster's face. "He's pretty inspirational ... a guy like that has obviously had a tough time and I guess the chance to put a smile on his face with something like this is a pretty easy thing from our point of view."

Brad, who was a standout prop in his under-11 team before he got sick, continues to have a never-say-never attitude seeking advice from McCaw as he chases his All Black dream.

"[I told him] just enjoy it, that's what sport is all about," McCaw said. "That's why I still play. I'm sure that's why he comes along and as long as he keeps smiling, that's the key."