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After cancer battle, yet another fight
By PATRICK WHITTLE
patrick.whittle @ heraldtribune.com

Venice, Florida -- Brian Talboom got word on Friday that his year of painful chemotherapy treatment had paid off, and he appeared to be over a rare form of cancer. The 19-year-old Venice resident celebrated by buying a new motorcycle that he called his "freedom."

He crashed hours later and is back in the hospital, this time in intensive care with brain injuries that have him fighting for his life. Again.

Talboom's father, Geoffrey, fears that prospects for survival are poor.

The family copes with an agonizing wait for the swelling in Brian's brain to go down so they can get a better idea of his chances.

Talboom's girlfriend of nearly three years, Venice High School senior Michelle Healy, visits him in the St. Petersburg hospital and says it might not be as bad as his family fears.

"I know he's there," she said. "He's really bruised up, but I know deep down he's strong."

Talboom crashed Friday night outside his home on Venice East Boulevard.

A Florida Highway Patrol report said Talboom, who had a passenger on the cycle, lost control. He was not wearing a helmet when he crashed, and remained comatose at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

His father said more than 30 friends, including Healy, visited his son at Bayfront on Monday. Friends and family are trying to raise money to help pay for his treatment, which comes after a year of therapy for Burkitt's lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that commonly strikes children and young adults.

Talboom's struggle with cancer began with a few months of belly pain. Then, on a summer day last year, his appendix exploded while he was out fishing with friends.

A biopsy found the rare cancer. About 300 people are diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma in the United States each year, according to the Web site Burkitts.org.

Talboom finished his high school coursework while undergoing treatment, and planned to attend Manatee Community College and start his own business.

After more than a year of treatment, including chemotherapy, doctors told him in May that his cancer was in remission.

On Friday, he celebrated a successful follow-up test by buying the motorcycle, his first since the cancer took over his life in August 2006.

Family members pray for his recovery so he can get back to the outdoor activities he loves: riding dirt bikes, four-wheeling and boating.

"Life wasn't sitting inside watching TV," his father said. "It was outside, being with friends."

Geoffrey Talboom questions the FHP investigation of his son's accident. He says another car forced his son off the road, causing the accident.

He hopes his son's passenger, John Milewski, can help persuade the FHP to reopen the investigation. Milewski is recovering from his injuries at Venice Regional Medical Center.

The FHP and a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said the cause of the crash is not under investigation.

Geoffrey Talboom said he will keep pushing to reopen the investigation:

"I know my son and he's been riding bikes since he was 10 years old."

But after four days of shuttling back and forth to the hospital in St. Petersburg, Geoffrey Talboom is not optimistic.

Brian's girlfriend says if anyone can recover from the motorcycle accident, it is him.

Said Karin Healy, Michelle's mother: "Brian needs every prayer this community can offer him."

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Update: Brian died of his injuries. RIP Brian
 
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