Cancer surviving family motivates all!

Ethan Birch has been on the national news (Fox News: "The Big Story": with John Gibson). He was one of the Chicago finalists of Oprah's reality show "The Big Give". He's been to over thirty schools in town with his motivational / educational hip-hop. He has traveled to Florida, New York, New Jersey, and all over the midwest with his music. His personal story, along with the trials he and his family have been dealt and effectively overcome, added to a unique hip-hop CD he wrote and produced, would equal not only a featured spot on the popular talk show, but a great made-for-TV movie.
“After what all three of us have been through, I couldn’t care less about the money,” Birch said. “I’m all about the message.”
Tragedy strikes
Birch, 35, is referring to the cancers he and his two sons, Keithan, now 4, and Davion, now 8, all were diagnosed with within one year of each other beginning in August 2004.
That month, Birch and his former wife noticed that Keithan’s motor skills began to regress or go haywire.
Keithan’s mother called to him to walk to her when he was 2 years old, but for some reason, he didn’t want to move. When he finally got up, his legs were wobbly and gave out underneath him.
His parents rushed him to Lutheran Hospital where doctors found three brain tumors: one the size of a tennis ball, one the size of a golf ball and one the size of the grape. He was taken to Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, where they immediately operated on Keithan. The surgery lasted 14 hours.
The likelihood of Keithan’s survival was slim. The Make A Wish Foundation allowed Keithan to meet Shaquille O’Neal, his dream.
But Keithan survived. He’s now 4 and cancer-free.
“It’s terrible to watch your 2-year-old go through it,” Birch said. “I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It was a test in patience.”
Then, doctors found that Davion had bone cancer. Davion had been tested because Birch and Keithan both have Gorlin Syndrome, a rare disorder that prevents a person from producing antibodies to prevent cancer. Davion, too, has the disorder.
Oncologists caught Davion’s cancer early enough that oral chemotherapy prevented it from spreading and eliminated it, Birch said.Davion, too, is now cancer-free.
Then, in September 2005, a tumor on Birch’s colon ruptured. He had peritonitis, an inflammation of the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. He flat-lined twice while at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Indianapolis.
“The poisons just shot through my system,” he said. “I was so swollen. They left me open for five days and on life support. Two times, I checked out. They had to resuscitate me on both occasions.”
He has healed, but still is fighting skin cancer.
Educational hip-hop
But his real battle may be against the evils facing young kids.
His CD 12:34, released this month, has 15 tracks and nine songs. Songs include, “Don’t Start” about cigarettes, “Watch Your Mouth,” “Bounce” about dealing with adversity and “Pull Your Pants Up” about wearing your pants at your waist and teen pregnancy.
All of the songs are written in the crunk genre, appealing to young kids.
“I loved hip-hop music, but 95 percent of it, you don’t want your kids to listen to,” he said. “I figured there’s got to be a way to produce these songs so that kids can relate to it. I wanted it to sound like real hip-hop, not watered down, so I made it equal to the songs you hear on the radio but with a positive message to it.”
Birch, who’s always been interested in music, said he wrote a song as a fund-raiser for Keithan when he got sick titled, “Keithan’s Anthem,” which became very popular.
He also wrote, “Lincoln’s Rap,” which is a short history lesson about Abraham Lincoln. The rap accompanied a book by Caroline Brewer and Robin Robinson that included kids’ artwork featuring Lincoln.
CANI/Headstart owns the rights to the song, but both Ethan Birch and a music producer in New York City receive royalties, said Mary Musson, former executive director of CANI/Headstart in Fort Wayne and interim director of the MLK Montessori School.
The leader of the national Headstart Association heard Birch’s song and asked him to come and perform at the national convention. The book and the CD sold like wildfire.
“He’s the real thing,” Musson said. “I’m hoping to partner with him again. He’s extremely talented. He just really brings smiles to people. He’s so optimistic and upbeat.”
Embracing life
Biracial and adopted by white parents, he grew up in Columbia City. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army and was put in an all-Black platoon. Six weeks into his tour of duty, an artillery shell landed in front of his platoon, killing five and injuring 27. Birch was discharged two years later, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
“I had a real identity crisis,” he said. “When I got out, I rejected the way my white parents raised me. I rejected the food they made. I rejected the way they talked, everything.”
“I always tried the best I could to show Ethan both side of the world,” said Karin Birch, his mother. “In the 1970s and 1980s, it was not always that easy. There wasn’t that much available like books or anything.” Ethan Birch moved into Eden Green Apartments on Creighton Avenue after being discharged from the army.
“I wanted to embrace my blackness,” he said. He then went on a “crazy robbery spree,” and was eventually charged and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served three years and was released for good behavior.
“That was quite shocking,” Karin Birch said. “He wasn’t accepted in the army because he wasn’t white enough or black enough, and he couldn’t deal with the stress. It was very heart-breaking when he got into trouble because it was not necessary. He was not brought up that way.”
Upon release, Ethan Birch couldn’t find a job. He had a general studies degree from Indiana University, but employers did not want to take a chance on him. He finally was hired by a small business college as a recruiter. His bosses allowed him to talk about his life experiences.
He became a motivational speaker, traveling across the country to primarily speak to high school students.
Since his ruptured tumor last year, Birch hasn’t traveled often as a motivational speaker. He’s focused mainly on providing positive educational lyrics through music on his CD.
“I’m glad what he’s doing has a good message,” Karin Birch said. “He works awfully hard to get it done.”
“To be in front of 300 grade-school kids screaming the lyrics, and they’re all positive, I’m going to roll it until my wheels fall off,” Ethan Birch said. “It’s not up to me how long I’m going to be here. One thing is for sure, though. I have never been more driven to make a difference every single day. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

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Anonymous says ... on Friday, Sep 19 at 6:48 PM

Search this man on You tube and listen to his story! He performed at Arlington Elem. today and he was great! I want to hear more of him and I am sure we will

Summer B (Fairfield Mom) says ... on Thursday, Aug 21 at 11:24 AM

I really admire Six 8, when he came to Fairfield Elem. he was all I heard about from my kids, then came the sample cd. Oh my I just loved it, everytime when got in the car it was put in Six 8. U deserve a metal 4 what u do, and my prayers r with u.

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