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Brain tumor leads to grace

JACKSON, Tenn. - 10/3/2006 - By: Cynthia Medina

What would you do if you found out that everything you worked for all your life was taken away from you? If you were no longer capable of pursuing all your hopes and dreams? Would you freak out in despair and worry, or would you act calmly and attempt to find the purpose in what was happening?

For many of us this would be a nightmare, unimaginable to think about, but for sophomore Nikki Burau, business administration major, this was a reality she was faced with last fall when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Burau was part of the incoming 2005 freshman class, recruited to become part of what was then Union’s inaugural women’s soccer team. Her last minute decision to attend Union was solely based on the one goal she maintained throughout her life, to play collegiate soccer. At that point, little did Burau know about how God would play a role in her life, especially with her passion.

“I grew up having one goal: to play college soccer,” Burau said. “Nothing else mattered to me. I never really went to church except every now and then. It was never a big deal to me because I didn’t understand how it could help me. Then, when it came down to finding a college to play for, things started to get hard. Every time I thought I found one, something would happen to that opportunity. At the last minute Union University popped up and became my only option so that’s where I went. Since I was surrounded by Christians, I started to think about what role God played in my life, but he still wasn’t my priority; soccer was.”

As the soccer season began, Burau quickly attained the title of the fastest player on the team and would prove to be an asset as she was one of the leading scorers for the Lady Bulldogs. Burau's four goals were tied for the team lead and her eight points and 33 shots were good for second on the team. However, minor problems with both of her calves at the start of the season escalated throughout play into a larger problem called “compartment syndrome.” Surgery would be conducted on both of Burau’s legs to relieve pain and ultimately return her to the field in tip-top condition. It was during this time that Burau began to cry out to God and began to see a spot for him in her life, but soccer was still her main concern.

It was not long after her Nov. 17 leg surgery that Burau began to experience extreme headaches. While she was on a weekend trip to visit a friend, her headaches finally reached the point of becoming nauseating and limiting her movement. It was that day in December that she was admitted into the hospital for testing and found out that she had a tumor imbedded on the right side of her brain, and that the surgical process could leave her without movement on the left side of her body. There was also a chance she could sustain mental damage.

“When she first called me, I was really upset. I can just remember crying for a long time,” said sophomore Resa Harris, social work major and Burau’s roommate. “I couldn’t believe it was happening to her, because it seemed like she was just really starting to understand God and what he could do for her and what he could do in her life and then this terrible thing happens to her.”

Burau received surgery to remove the tumor on Dec. 24, 2005, at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis. It was through the surgical experience and scary nights in the hospital as well as her recovery experiences that Burau learned to truly call upon the Lord and finally began to see how God deserved a permanent and overall position in her life.

A surgery that was supposed to take seven hours only took three. Burau was able to walk out of the hospital only four days after the surgery and a recovery that was supposed to take until this fall for her to play on the soccer field again only took a matter of three months. Now she is back on the field playing as well, if not better, than she once was. Her only stipulations are that she must wear a guard band around her head for protection where her skull was cut open and four pieces of titanium metal were placed. This season, Burau has played in five of the team's 10 matches to this point and has recorded four shots.

“There is definitely a big difference in her attitude with soccer and just her life in general,” said junior Cheslie Tharpe, sports medicine major and soccer teammate. “She used to be so negative, especially toward herself. She is just a brand new person, but that’s what Christ will do to you. She has changed her life and made an impact in so many others already; I know at least in mine she has and I’m so grateful for her and for that experience.”

Burau now strives to turn her passion for soccer into a way to use what God has given her to glorify him in everything. She realizes how God used her situation to draw her closer to him and her boast is that “God gave me a good story, and I don’t mind telling it.”


Steven Aldridge
Phone: (731) 661-5027
Sports Information
Fax: (731) 661-5182

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