Shane Burke – Battled cancer with the support of his brothers
Imagine you’re a new Pilam brother enjoying the life, adapting to college, hitting the books, making new friends, meeting girls and socializing… before experiencing piercing headaches, and eventually a foreboding medical diagnosis. Shane Burke found out that he had brain cancer.
Finding his way at VA Tech
Shane Burke ’23 (VA Tech) followed in his brother Kyle’s footsteps, joining him at Virginia Tech. Kyle introduced him to the brothers of Pilam, where he found a comfort zone.
Shane said, “I liked the diversity and range of personalities of the brotherhood.” He found them both hard working and laid back, and found it effortless to blend in. He joined Pilam in fall 2019.
Facing the reality of Cancer
While playing a round of golf in 2021, Burke’s vision blurred, then went black for a short time. He later learned that that he had a tumor that had to be removed. He had almost no time to process it before he was put on heavy medications to prepare for brain surgery.
Several months of radiation treatments followed to eliminate the cancer. Burke told himself, “it is what it is. Just get through.”
Brotherhood helped him through it
Burke had a constant support team back at Virginia Tech cheering him on the whole time — his brothers in Pi Lambda Phi. During his journey the brothers were checking in and sending Burke messages of support.
A number of brothers even shaved their heads to lift his spirits and show their solidarity. Burke added, “In between radiation and chemo, I made a surprise visit back to school to visit my Pi Lambda Phi brothers. I felt like myself again.”
In August, when Shane “rang the bell” signifying his cancer was in remission, he was surrounded by his pledge brothers. He said his experience brought them closer and really, “made us blood brothers. What we have must be special.”
Paying it forward
Inspired by Burke’s journey, his chapter dedicated its fall philanthropy to support St. Jude’s Research Hospital, where his cancer was detected. In October the fraternity hosted “PiLam Jams,” a concert with the house band, a DJ and some other talent. They raised almost two thousand dollars for St. Jude’s.
Up Next – Graduation!
Shane now reflects upon his experience matter-of-factly, focusing on the positives and high points. It is plain to see how much he appreciated his support network of brothers, friends, family, and care givers.
In 2023, Shane Burke will walk the podium and receive his diploma from Virginia Tech in Business Information Technology and Cybersecurity. He’s moving back home to West Chester, PA and hopes to find a job in Philly or the area.