Leading by Example

Donald Burton blog

By anyone’s standards, Lieutenant Donald Burton has led a life of remarkable achievement.

The 45-year-old Ponchatoula native has always been committed to serving others in his community, from his 20-year career in law enforcement to his leadership as a local minister for Westside Church of God in Christ.

Burton, a former competitive bodybuilder—and winner of 2016’s Mr. Louisiana Championship—was in the prime of his health when a simple sinus headache suddenly became life-threatening.

In 2018, Burton went to a Hammond allergy clinic with a nosebleed, where his doctor discovered the cause of his sinus issues to be a rare stage four nasopharynx cancer. The same day, he visited Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Hammond, and soon began a tailored radiation treatment plan with Dr. Kos Kovtun, a Mary Bird Perkins radiation oncologist. The physician also collaborated with other specialists that were part of Burton’s care team.

Konstantin Kotvun

“The radiation treatment plan we created for Donald was unique to his diagnosis; it’s something we do for every patient to ensure the best outcomes possible,” said Kovtun. “We surround patients with clinical and support services and the most advanced technology. And it’s made possible by generous community support.”

Over the next year, as Burton battled cancer with his Mary Bird Perkins expert care team, it seemed like he was nearly in the clear; he had been making progress with treatment, and the affected bone near his brain had even started to regenerate. But then life threw the Burton family another curveball—during a routine PET scan, physicians found thirteen new nodules in both of Burton’s lungs. Then, in the midst of this second phase of treatment, Burton was forced to quarantine away from his support system following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

“I just kept on believing and keeping my faith in God in order to push through physically, mentally, and spiritually,” he said.

Burton’s steadfast faith kept him going until finally, he received good news. Burton completed immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatment in December, and at a follow-up appointment a few months later he heard the words that his cancer was in remission.

His experience over the past three years has given him a new appreciation for life and positive outlook for the future. He recently welcomed his fifteenth grandchild into the world, has resumed his work on the police force and is looking forward to getting back into the gym as a fitness coach to help inspire others.

“Every day is a brighter day because no matter how cloudy it is, I look forward to waking up and making a difference. I feel privileged to be alive,” Burton says. “We have an option to give out or give up, I like to say, and I give it all up to God. I don't give out, I don't quit, just keep the fight going.”

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center offers patients access to advanced radiation technology to treat cancer. To learn more or to make an appointment call 1-800-489-7800.