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Mary Bridge ‘a hospital from heaven’ for former patient turned college athlete

Brian hopes that by sharing his story, he can encourage other people going through cancer to keep fighting.

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By McKenna Hoecherl

A high school tennis state champion. A Division I college athlete. An avid runner who completes more than 1,000 miles in a year. 

Achievements like these didn’t seem likely for Brian McPhee’s future when he was diagnosed with leukemia at 3 years old, but thanks to the lifesaving care he received from Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, he’s accomplished all of these things and more.

Following his initial diagnosis in 1992, McPhee spent the next few years receiving various forms of treatment as a Mary Bridge patient.

When he thinks back on that time, McPhee doesn’t think of the discomfort that comes along with chemotherapy, or the scariness of so many hospital visits. What he remembers most is the kindness of the people who took care of him and the care he received.

He remembers the name of his favorite doctor — Dan Niebrugge — and how friendly he was, always greeting him with “a big beard and a smile.” He remembers the nursing staff and how they always found fun ways to make the hospital seem happier. One of his favorite distractions was getting to play Sonic the Hedgehog on a Sega Genesis while he received his regular “back pokes” (spinal taps). 

Simply put, when McPhee is asked about Mary Bridge, he calls it “a hospital from heaven.”

After three years of treatment, McPhee’s leukemia officially went into remission in 1995. He grew up playing sports and eventually found his passion through tennis, playing in six different state championships throughout high school, then going on to compete at the collegiate level for California Polytechnic State University.

Adult Brian McPhee Cal Poly tennis

Today, McPhee lives in Renton with his wife, Parisa, and works as a district sales manager for a medical device company. He completed his MBA degree last year, bought his first home, and says the next long-term goal on his list is to compete in an Ironman Triathlon.

McPhee is passionate about sharing his Mary Bridge story with others, especially those who may be battling cancer. He says that surviving leukemia at such a young age gave him a unique perspective on life, one he’s always been grateful for. He treats each new day as a gift and never takes anything, or anyone, for granted.

McPhee hopes that by sharing his story, he can encourage other people going through cancer to keep fighting, and help them realize they’re stronger than they may think.

“Often times, survivors don’t understand the level of toughness and level of focus that they have,” he says. “I want them to know that anything is possible and to never, ever give up.”

Support Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital

You can support lifesaving pediatric care for kids like Brian by making a donation to Mary Bridge. Learn more.

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