Time In: Amber Busin
This month, Time In would like to recognize Amber Busin, who passed away from myelodysplasia in July 2002, one month before her 23rd birthday. Here is her story as told by her number one fan, her father, Anthony Busin, Jr., or has he likes to be called, “Amber’s Dad.”
On December 5,2002, soccer jersey number zero, worn by keeper Amber Busin, was retired by Mississippi College. This was only the second time that a jersey was retired in the entire school’s history. The number zero on Amber’s jersey represented the perfection of the game that Amber strove to achieve. To my wife and me, zero represents the hole left in our hearts.
You see, on July 28, 2002, our beloved daughter, Amber, passed away. She died from complications of the blood disorder, myelodysplasia, and of a bone marrow transplant. Amber died one month shy of her 23rd birthday.
Amber was born on August 25,1979, in Peru, Indiana. At first, she was not even fond of me. You see, I was in the military and was gone from home quite a bit. Although it was my duty to serve my country, this made family life rather difficult. Realizing this and trying to serve both, I decided to leave Strategic Air Command and become a biomedical engineer in the Air Training Command. This worked for several years but when faced with another career decision, I felt it was time for me to leave. My wife and I packed up, along with Amber’s older brother, T. Jay, and moved from Wichita Falls, Texas to Brandon, Mississippi.
Amber was 7, a little girl who by then, and, for the rest of her life, was inseparable from me. “Her father was the one she leaned on,” said my wife, Donna. “She loved him so much.”
As a girl, Amber loved frilly dolls and clean clothes. She was very dainty and ladylike but most of all—she hated dirt. In spite of her height—she stopped growing at around 5-foot-9—she seemed cut out for a grownup life of afternoon teas and garden clubs. Amber had grown into a beautiful woman. Her stunning outward appearance mesmerized men as she walked by, but this was nothing compared to the beauty that lay inside.
While in the ninth grade, Amber was about to shock all of us. She went out for the high school soccer team. “We couldn’t believe it,” said my wife. “We saw a part of her we had never seen before.”
Until that year, Northwest Rankin High School had never fielded a girl’s soccer team. “I basically formed the team by gathering up girls in my ninth-grade biology class,” explains teacher and coach, Montgomery Hinton. “A couple of girls had played soccer before. The rest had not, including Amber. She told me she wanted to play right fullback. So I tried her there, and it didn’t work out very well.”
Amber’s ladylike mannerisms kept her from being the aggressive player she needed to be at this defensive position. Another position needed to be found. Meanwhile, her brother, T. Jay, was an outstanding goalkeeper for the boys’ team.
“(T. Jay was) one of the two best (keepers) who ever played for this school. I figured, hey, maybe it’s in the genes,” said Coach Hinton. “So I asked her parents what they thought."
When Coach Hinton asked my wife and I about Amber playing keeper, I just smiled and thought to myself—no way is this going to work out. To this day, T. Jay is still the best natural goalie I have ever seen. I worked with him a lot and knew what qualities it took to play this position. If Amber wasn’t aggressive enough to play fullback – she would never make it in the goal. Boy, was I wrong!
So Coach Hinton put her in the goal. “You talk about a natural. It was awesome,” said Hinton. “And I didn’t have much to do with it, except I stuck her in there.”
In the goal, Amber lived for penalty kicks and shootouts—one-on-one duels in which normal keepers turn to prayer. “But she ate it up,” he said. “In one game, she blocked every shot in the shootout.”
On the field, she was as frilly and dainty as a moose. But in the goal, in spite of her childhood, her moves and instincts were natural. One look at her face and everyone knew who was in charge. Amber knew her keeper responsibilities and would not let her teammates down.
"I had been very explicit to the players: ‘Don’t ever strike an opponent, just deal with it,’" Hinton said. “But we’ve had two fights in girls’ soccer at Northwest Rankin, and Amber was in one of them. It was a game where Courtney Smith was getting the snot beat out of her, and Amber shot out of the goal and knocked the other player off of her. It was something to see. She earned a lot of respect from her teammates that day. They knew that whenever they got into trouble, she would cover their backs. We put together an all-time, top 11 list of girls’ soccer players here, and Amber is the goalkeeper in the Hall of Fame.”
Amber played select soccer in Clinton, Mississippi, and after high school, along with three of her teammates, she enrolled at Mississippi College. Soon, it would be time for her teammates to cover her back. Amber’s dreams of becoming a FBI agent and playing college soccer would soon come to an end.
In Amber’s first year of college, despite suffering from endometriosis, an abnormal growth of tissue in the uterus, Amber persevered and became All-Conference and Honorable Mention. Her enjoyment for the game and being with her friends overshadowed the constant pain she dealt with. She earned the respect from many players and coaches alike.
Slowly weakening from this illness, Amber faced a decision she desperately tried to avoid. During her sophomore year, her illness had forced her to quit playing the game she loved. As Amber had always done her entire life, when a door closed; she would always look for another one to open. Soon she volunteered to coach the goalkeepers.
Amber not only excelled on the field but also in the classroom. During her sophomore year, Amber made the Presidential List with a perfect 4.0 grade average. But with this illness, her dreams of becoming a FBI agent began to fade. No one knew it at the time, but as fate would have it, an even more dreaded disease was about to show its face.
It was during summer school of May 1999 that Amber’s walls were about to come crashing down. It started out as a sore on her leg but turned out to be much more serious. Blood tests revealed that Amber had been suffering from myelodysplasia, a precursor to leukemia. Amber’s body wasn’t able to produce normal red blood cells and platelets, and she would soon turn to others to keep her alive. Slowly weakening from this illness, her thoughts and dreams all vanished into thin air and she was in the fight for her life.
For the next year, Amber withdrew from school and had to be apart from the friends she loved so much. She would depend on the support of blood and platelet donors until a bone marrow transplant could take their place. With this second disease, Amber now had to focus on her own defense.
Within a year, on May 18, 2000, Amber was living on the bone marrow from an anonymous donor. The transplant seemed to work, but there were no guarantees. Amber knew this but made the critical decision to have the transplant anyway.
"She told me not to feel bad because she had a good life,” said my wife. "She told us not to cry, and we didn’t—not in front of her. I don’t know where she got the inner strength.”
Amber never had any self-pity. She never complained or felt sorry for herself. She was too busy living. Her life was a precious gift from God and she wasn’t about to let it slip away without fighting.
Whenever a new patient is admitted to the Bone Marrow Ward, the doctors, nurses, and staff say, “I’m not going to let them get close to my heart.” Every time they do, they run the risk of losing part of their hearts to them. With Amber, they saw this beautiful woman getting started on a very difficult path and wanted to keep the door shut. But with Amber, this simply wasn’t possible. Her smile, warmth, intelligence, sense of humor, gentleness, toughness, and brassiness blew that idea clean out of water. To know Amber was to love Amber. Her illness may have attacked her body but never that wonderful spirit.
One year after her transplant, Amber was doing volunteer work at UMC’s transplant program. She would go to work whether she felt like it or not. She was willing to do anything. Her FBI dreams had faded away, but dreams of becoming a Hematologist and finding a cure to her disease were planted into her mind. She was willing to do anything, all because someone had donated their bone marrow to her so that she may live.
On Sept. 2001, Amber enrolled as a junior for the third time at Mississippi College. She was determined to complete her education and graduate. Three weeks into this semester, she became ill and had to withdraw again. The school never withdrew her scholarship and was very supportive throughout this whole ordeal.
“We’ve had several students die from cancer but I can’t remember one quite like Amber, who continued to try so hard,” said Carolyn Hand, MC’s director of residence life. “Amber’s battle with cancer and her loyalty, made her well-known at MC.”
Amber loved her friends dearly. My wife and I let her spend as much time with them as possible. They made her feel complete. One of her friends was Jeremy Hill, now a graduate of MC.
“Whenever some of us would get sick, get the flu, she’d come over and cook soup and take care of us,” he says. “We had the flu, and she had leukemia, and she was taking care of us. Her father said to me at Amber’s funeral, ‘What great friends she had,’ and I said, ‘It was easy.’ ”
Seven months after her last Christmas, Amber Lee Busin died from complications caused by her disease and by the transplant. She acquired a fungus that became uncontrollable. The last month of her life was spent on IVs and oxygen 24 hours a day. During this whole ordeal she never complained once nor did she have any resentment. Her body was now just a shadow of the athlete she once was, but her beauty was now greater than ever.
On December 5, 2002, at the Amber Busin Memorial dinner, held at Mississippi College, $7,000.00 was raised through private donations and ticket sales. This money was raised to help defray the medical bills of another cancer victim at this school. Amber’s keeper jersey, # 0, was retired forever. This was both an honor and a great act of love. I didn’t cry at my daughter’s funeral, but when I accepted her jersey, my eyes were full of tears.
It has now been 1 1/2 years since Amber has gone to Heaven and she is deeply missed by all. Amber was the most beautiful person I have ever met. I was so proud to be her father. She touched so many lives on and off the field, and continues to be an inspiration to us all. It has been and continues to be very difficult for my wife and I to find a balance of living with her memory and the life we now have without her.
Although we still grieve, we are not without hope – for in the end faith and love will conquer all. I have learned so much from her and I now realize that there are beautiful people everywhere – we just have to look for them. Amber taught me that strength, courage, and an unyielding desire to succeed could come from anyone. My heart is able to love more and have more compassion, and I have become a stronger person because of her. She raised me up to more than I can be. My wife and I were with her all the time she was ill and now her memory will carry us through until we are united again in Heaven. I thank God for allowing us to have her for 23 years. I will continue to honor her the rest of my entire life.
With eternal love,
Anthony J.C. Busin Jr., better known as “Amber’s dad”
“To know Amber was to love Amber”
“A beautiful lady with a beautiful soul”