Survivor Spotlight: CIO Jon Braeutigam
After graduating from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in business (’85) and an MBA (’87), Jon Braeutigam was ready for anything—except a cancer diagnosis.
Within weeks of finishing his degree, before he even had time to secure a job in his chosen field, he began having pain and drenching night sweats.
“I went to see my family doctor in Frankenmuth on a Friday afternoon and was immediately referred to a specialist. I remember asking my doctor, ‘When should I see this specialist?’” Braeutigam said.
“Get in your car right now and go,” was the doctor’s response.
The diagnosis: testicular cancer. Braeutigam had surgery on Saturday morning.
After a week of recuperating from surgery, Braeutigam returned to the Lansing area and began his treatment plan with MSU oncologists. He was checked into St. Lawrence Hospital and immediately started his chemotherapy regimen, which consisted of four five-day infusions spread over four months. The cornerstone drug in his treatment plan was cisplatin.
“Being diagnosed with cancer was a life-changing event,” Braeutigam said. “I was right out of college, expecting to get a job in finance. Instead, I found myself in the hospital getting chemo.”
But even that didn’t stop him. Braeutigam’s previous boss, from his days working for the State as a student, came to the hospital to tell Braeutigam he wanted to hire him for a full-time position.
“I had my initial job interview for a full-time position with the State of Michigan while lying flat in bed in the hospital,” he said.
He began his career with the State in October 1988, and has held various positions since. In 2008, he became the chief investment officer for the Michigan Department of Treasury.
In 1989, Braeutigam married Wendy, whom he had met while they were both students at MSU.
“I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to father children,” Braeutigam recalled. “But we had three children,” he continues, smiling. “And we had our first grandchild—Ryan—this year, on Independence Day; I became a grandfather! My son-in-law is in the military, so he was born at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“To go from thinking I might not have kids, and then being able to have children and now grandchildren . . . That’s pretty awesome!” he said.
“I’m just so grateful. When I was in the hospital, I found out that the drug I was taking, was discovered at MSU by Dr. Rosenberg. I then found out it had been approved only about a decade earlier. If cisplatin had not been discovered when it was, it might have been a different story for me.”
Cisplatin, which is still widely used today, has a more than 95 percent success rate.
“What an amazing impact cisplatin has had, the number of lives saved—including mine,” Braeutigam said. “It just shows we all have our areas that we focus on and when we focus on our jobs and do well, some good things can really happen. Over-the-top good, fantastic.”
Braeutigam has been cancer-free since 1988. The only reminder of his brush with cancer is some tinnitus.
“Obviously I’m grateful for MSU and all its positive impact on the world; but most importantly, I have my life.”