D.K. Brantley’s new book, “I’m 13 Years Old And I Changed The World,” is an insightful look at how cancer affects adolescents and their relationships. Brantley writes through the eyes of a …
D.K. Brantley’s new book, “I’m 13 Years Old And I Changed The World,” is an insightful look at how cancer affects adolescents and their relationships. Brantley writes through the eyes of a 13-year-old teenager named Adam whose best friend, Big Mike, has leukemia. As Adam explains, “I’ve got to step in and do what science hasn’t yet done. I’ve got to find a cure.”
It is through this fresh, youthful approach to an unsettling subject that Brantley charms his readers into experiencing the journey of Adam in a style that feels like you’re reading someone’s diary with all the juicy details that make it hard to put down. For many it might be the closest thing to living vicariously as a teenager and experiencing a fresh perspective on how youths might approach a serious health problem with positive energy and support.
While Brantley’s story is fiction, his goal to help real life seventh-grade student Dylan Duncan who is battling cancer is all too real. The student at Tennessee Christian Preparatory School in Cleveland was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in May 2016. His mother, Becky Duncan, has since taken leave from work to care for Dylan, which has meant an immediate and drastic drop in family income.
“We’ve known the Duncan family for years,” Brantley said. “They’re very sweet people who are in a situation I can’t imagine. As soon as I heard about Dylan, I felt I had to do something to help.”
Brantley said he decided to help by donating 100 percent of all proceeds from his book to the Duncan family through the end of the year. That includes all profits from his first book, “I’m 12 Years Old And I Saved The World.” The first book dealt with Adam experiencing a huge dilemma. His dad loses his job, he and his family move in with his granddad, and because of the stress, his parents’ marriage goes on the rocks. Adam decides it’s up to him to fix everything. When the book ends, Big Mike comes home looking sickly, which means Adam has to get to work again.
In the sequel, Big Mike has cancer and we learn, through the eyes of Adam, how to cope, support a friend and possibly change the world.
Vernon Duncan, Dylan’s father, told Daniel his hope is that others will heed the lesson of the Duncans’ real life story. Initially, physicians diagnosed Dylan with severe growing pains. However, the Duncans felt something more serious was going on in their son’s body. So they sought additional testing, which led to Dylan’s early diagnosis.
“Parents need to follow their God-given instincts and not rely solely on medical professionals, because sometimes they get it wrong,” Vernon said. “The surgeon at Vanderbilt said she had never seen this type of cancer caught this early before, and the oncologist told us that if we’d relied on the first specialist, Dylan’s cancer would have spread within six months and we may have gotten a much different outcome!”
Regarding Dylan, Brantley added, “The treatment has been working, but it’s beating him up pretty bad. That said, he’s a tough dude. He’s surrounded and supported by a lot of amazing people who lift him up in prayer multiple times every day. I’m just one of those many people trying to do something small to relieve the unimaginable burden of childhood cancer. Hopefully with this article, there will be even more folks who play a role in Dylan beating cancer and getting on with life.”
The message Brantley said he want readers to take away from his book is that people need people.
“We were created to be in community, and anyone who insists that it’s enough to not intentionally hurt others is wrong. We need people, and they need us. Which requires us to be in relationship with them. Which takes work. What I hope folks will walk away with is obviously the enjoyment of a good story, but also recognizing that no man is an island. People need people. We may think we can do it all, but we can’t. That said, even if all you can do is sit by your friend’s bedside and hang out while he’s sick — that is significant and very difficult to do. To be honest, I wish I was more like Adam. I want to love people like he does. So maybe the book will help me do that. Or maybe encourage someone else to.”
At the same time, Brantley’s book offers the public a chance to experience the joy of giving and support his view that people need people. He said, “I’d love it if folks bought a copy and then another copy for a family member and then another copy for a stranger and on and on. The more people buy, the more we can give the Duncans. If people would rather skip the book and give straight to the Duncans, they can do so by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/23m4tf8.
“Cancer will always be part of Dylan’s story. Like so many other people, I’m anxious to help him move on to the next chapter, when cancer is just a memory. Anyone who knows Dylan and the Duncans knows they’re some of the sweetest people out there. Who wouldn’t want to help them?”
Brantley, who was born in Chattanooga and moved to Cleveland in 2008 with his wife, Jessica, and their two children, Esther and Leah, said, “I wanted to write a book that kids could relate to. Life is hard, and kids know it. Their parents’ relationships aren’t all sunshine and banana milkshakes. Jobs get lost. People get cancer. People die. So how do we handle this? By acknowledging that things aren’t how they should be and mourning loss, but not dwelling in sorrow and giving up on life.”
Brantley suggested the key is in “recognizing that we have a responsibility and opportunity to change the world. Not the world as a whole, necessarily, but the small world you’re in. That starts at a very young age — sitting with someone at lunch who looks lonely or standing up for someone getting bullied. And it goes on in adulthood, when you see someone struggling to make good choices and you step in to be an encouragement. Life is hard every day for a lot of people. A kind word to someone hurting and doing your job well to make life easier on your boss and co-workers — even if it seems inconvenient to you — makes life a little bit better for others. That’s what we’re here for.”
Brantley is the editor of the Jones Companies Courier, a company newsletter distributed to more than 3,200 employees. Prior to arriving at Jones Management Services, Brantley was the editor of the Bradley News Weekly. He is also the manager of WOOP 99.9 FM radio station.
The local author has written a warm, witty, insightful and innovative work of fiction that reads like you just walked into someone’s private life and don’t want to leave. He also knows how to leave you wanting more. By dedicating his latest book to Dylan, a friend who is fighting cancer in real life, Brantley has made “I’m 13 Years Old And I Changed The World” a personal and public mission for anyone wanting to fight cancer. He has presented the public with a way to be supportive, charitable and share a book of hope at the same time.
The book is available on amazon.com at: https://www.amazon.com/Im-Years-Old-Changed-World/dp/099786110X/ref=la_B00W9NDS82_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475750808&sr=1-1 or https://www.amazon.com/D.K.-Brantley/e/B00W9NDS82/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1475234961&sr=8-1 will access all of Brantley’s books on amazon.com.
“I’d encourage anyone who buys the book via Amazon to leave a review,” Brantley requested. “Once a book gets a certain number of reviews it will show up in people’s Amazon feed as a book they may like. When this happens, it will open the door to more folks buying (copies of the book) and helping the Duncans.”
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