Eastern College Athletic Conference honors Brian Oehme for courage off the court.

September 2016 – In receiving the Award of Valor from the Eastern College Athletic Conference, Drew University’s Brian Oehme was grateful and gracious.

Oehme, a sophomore, Baldwin Honors scholars and forward on the basketball team, was recognized for his courage in facing testicular cancer, which is now in remission. In an interview, he reflects on the widespread support he has received since he was first diagnosed in March.

Brian Oehme with Drew Director of Athletics Jason Fein
Brian Oehme with Drew Director of Athletics Jason Fein

How did the Drew community react to the news?

Every team came together and signed something. I have balls from all the different sports, jerseys, hats. It was so good to know that everyone had my back and that we’re a family here. Even people I never met reached out.

How did your friends respond?

One of them told me that I should be proud that I’m never going to give in and I’m going to fight it. It made me realize that I can make this a thing to overcome and not hide from it.

How about Head Coach Darryl Keckler?

He told me that if he could only imagine one person who would be forced to fight this and win, it would be me. I believe he saw something in me and my character during my first season. And the first thing he thought was that I was strong enough to beat this. That really helps.

What kept you going?

A lot of support from my family, friends and school. That was huge. It also helped to remind myself of the bigger picture. When I first found out that it spread, my doctor said it was going to be a long time before I could step on the basketball court again, but that it will be cured. I trusted the process, looked at the big picture and knew that once it was over, I would have an advantage over everyone else because I went through this.

I understand that new hobbies helped you cope.

I taught myself how to play violin. I figured if I’m not going to be able to play, I want to better myself and be more well rounded someway. I love music, I know a lot of people that play guitar and piano, and I wanted to do something different.

What have you learned about yourself?

I’m an impatient person, and I learned a lot about patience. Sitting out of workouts and games for a half a year is really hard for me. I’m trying to learn patience because I don’t have another choice. I also realize how lucky I am. When I was in the hospital, I saw a lot of people much worse off than I was, and some that don’t make it. In the future, I will never take another play, another workout or game for granted.

What’s your prognosis?

I was told I was cancer free on August 25. Tumors can come back. It’s what they do. I will see an oncologist once a month for a year, then once every two months the next year. If everything stays clear, I can be cleared to play basketball, but I’m planning on taking the whole year off to retain a year of eligibility. I want to make it so when I come back, I’m better than I ever was. I want that to be my story.