PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – DiMantae Bronaugh died Tuesday.

He was just 19.

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He had Leukemia.

None of it is fair and it all hits way too close to home.

I can’t stop thinking about him. I can’t stop thinking about that Aliquippa Quips football poster that hung on the doorway leading into his hospital room on the ninth floor of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh — the ninth floor where they take you when you get that devastating news you have cancer.

I can’t stop thinking about the constant flow of visitors in those red and black hoodies — a sure sign you’re from Aliquippa – who made their way in and out of his hospital room.

I can’t stop thinking about the picture of him in the tunnel leading to the field at the WPIAL title game just a few short days ago — my how happy he must have been to see his guys out there banging heads with rival Beaver Falls.

I can’t stop thinking about seeing his aunt and caregiver, Anita Gordon, in passing in the hallway of the ninth floor at Children’s in a dedicated watch over her nephew, seemingly never wanting to stray too far from him.

I can’t stop thinking about the frozen food containers in that ninth floor communal kitchen with “DiMantae” written on them in Magic Marker, a sure sign — a sad sign — that patient anticipated a long stay.

I can’t stop thinking of the pleasant commotion that emanated from his hospital room from a group of voices the night the Pitt-Clemson game ebbed and flowed with what seemed like a score-a-second.

I can’t stop thinking about it because my 5-year-old daughter, Darran, also has acute lymphoblastic leukemia — and her hospital room earlier this month was three doors down from Bronaugh’s.

But now the kid from Aliquippa, who just wanted to get back on the football field for coach Mike Zmijanac, is gone.

It’s so unfair. It’s so unconscionable. It’s so unimaginable.

Only, in total truth, I wonder sometimes if I will need to face the same dilemma. Lord, I hope not — I hope with every grain of my being that our family doesn’t have to face the same chapter the Bronaugh family is right now – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about such things now and again with my daughter.

That’s real. That’s how I feel. That’s what a death like Bronaugh’s does to the parents of a fellow cancer patient.

You can talk all you want about always thinking positive; you can put on a brave façade as much as you like. You can shout from the mountaintops that you are going to band together and “BEAT CANCER!” and then you get news like that of DiMantae’s and it makes you think — if even only for a moment.

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I bet if all of those families on the ninth floor at Children’s were given truth serum, they would admit they have at least thought about an unhappy ending.

That’s real.

It sucks. It’s unconscionable, it’s so unfair but the reality of that thought (however small) is perpetually in the far back of my mind with our daughter, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed earlier this month.

Am I confident our daughter is going to be OK in the end? Sure, I am. You bet I am. She’s the toughest 5-year-old girl I’ve ever run across and has what seems like millions in her corner.

I’m also exceedingly confident the people taking care of her are among the finest in the world at what they do.

I’ve been around football and hockey players and boxers and back alley streetfighters and numbers runners — you ain’t seen tough until you’ve seen the patients and staff up there on that ninth floor at Children’s.

DiMantae Bronaugh was tough — but for whatever reason there just ended up being a different plan for him.

Can’t explain it, but someone had a different plan for DiMantae.

You know what irks me though?

I heard some news reports and read some things that stated Bronaugh “lost his battle” with leukemia.

Nonsense.

He fought like hell.

He fought like hell with all he had.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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