Surrounded by family members and dear friends, former TWU softball student-athlete Abby Burns died Monday evening from complications due to acute myeloid leukemia. She passed away at Medical City Hospital in Dallas at the age of 23.
Burns will be honored at the start of TWU’s softball game against Tarleton State at Pioneer Field at 6 p.m. tonight. For one final time she will be introduced in the starting lineup and her #19 jersey will be retired.
Burns, who was diagnosed on January 11, 2011, received incredible support from her teammates, her Lone Star Conference opponents, the TWU community and the softball world at-large. After a bone marrow transplant operation in July 2011 and numerous rounds of chemotherapy, she was pronounced cancer free.
But Burns battled graft-versus-host disease, a complication that can occur after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in which the newly transplanted donor cells attack the transplant recipient's body. She was admitted to Medical City Hospital on January 6, 2013, with high fever, an infection at her port site and pneumonia. She recovered from the infection and pneumonia, but the ordeal left her very weak and she spent the next three months in the hospital trying to regain her strength. The disease continued to take its toll until she could fight no more.
Burns was a determined young woman who faced adversity like she faced every batter on the softball field. Just as she stared down opponents with her icy glare, Burns sized up all obstacles and boldly mowed them over until she achieved her goal. One of her primary goals was earning her college degree. Despite the leukemia, the transplant surgery, the chemo treatments and all the side effects, Burns completed the remaining classes she needed for her undergraduate degree during the 2011-12 academic year, including an internship during the 2012 spring semester. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology on May 11, 2012.Walking across the stage to a standing ovation at TWU’s commencement and receiving her diploma from TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Ann Stuart was truly a highlight in her life.
Burns transferred to TWU in 2009 after playing two years at Grayson County College. She appeared in 44 games while making 37 starts during the 2010 spring season for the Pioneers. She batted .327 with four home runs, five doubles and 25 RBI.Burns also posted a .482 slugging percentage and .395 on-base percentage.In the circle she tallied a 7-7 record with a 3.06 ERA and 45 strikeouts.
In 2010, she helped the Pioneers to a 39-22 overall record.The 39 wins were the most since the 2004 season when TWU won 40 games.The Pioneers advanced to the LSC Tournament for the first time since 2007 and to the NCAA South Central Regional Tournament for the third time in school history.
After Burns’ diagnosis, TWU Athletics rallied around her as “Abby’s Angels” and sold orange t-shirts and silicone bracelets to raise money to help offset her medical expenses. Orange is the awareness color for leukemia. The NCAA asked her to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on June 6, 2011, at the first game of the championship series of the Women’s College World Series game as part of “StrikeOut Cancer Night.”
Her courageous battle touched many lives and she will forever be remembered in the history of TWU Softball.
Burns’ funeral will be held at Parkside Baptist Church, 301 North Lillis Lane, in Denison, Texas, at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24.Funeral arrangements are being handled by Fisher Funeral Home in Denison.