One moment West Holmes Wall-of-Famer Brady Arnold was preparing for another exciting season of high-paced, action-packed basketball with his college teammates at West Liberty University in West Virginia.
In the blink of an eye, he was battling for his life.
That is how cancer works its evil. The fact that Arnold was a supreme athlete who was playing the game he loved at the age of 22 didn’t matter to cancer. It moved in and took control.
However, Arnold wasn’t about to allow it to claim a victory and prepared to retake control of his life.
Arnold will share his incredible journey of remaining strong, leaning on an amazing support crew and above all his faith as he battled through cancer and won at the upcoming Holmes County Walk for the James on Friday, June 15.
Arnold’s story is an inspiration as it exemplifies how perseverance, faith and support are all key ingredients to dealing with cancer.
“I started feeling tired all the time and started feeling sick, and the day before we started basketball practice, I couldn’t run,” Arnold said.
The following day he arose late to class, tried to rush to class and almost passed out. A trip to the emergency room showed the frightening news that nobody wants to hear. He had a large cancerous mass in his chest.
His next months would be spent not on the basketball court, where he had spun hoops magic throughout his career, but instead in the James Cancer Center in Columbus, where he would be battling a foe much greater than an opposing guard.
Several days of tests led to the diagnosis of diffused large B-cell lymphoma.
“That just goes to show that cancer does not discriminate,” Arnold said. “I was in the best shape of my life, playing the game I love at a very high level, and all of a sudden it hit. It was pretty scary.”
Going into treatments, Arnold knew three things: He was not going to let this cancer get him down; he had a wonderful support team in his family, teammates and friends; and he had his faith to lean on.
“I had the attitude that I was going to fight and to beat it,” Arnold said. “My family was amazing. Even when I was diagnosed, we didn’t even share many words. They were just there for me, and that was huge. They were my backbone throughout this whole ordeal, and we never talked about the negative side. Like me, they were going to do whatever was necessary to beat cancer. I mean I knew it could be really bad, but I never really worried about all of the negative for some reason.”
That played a key role in Arnold’s trek through recovery. He also said being able to talk about faith with his family and knowing that God still had a plan for him was something that helped him get through radiation treatments and the agonizing days that turned to weeks, weeks that turned to months in the slow recovery process that followed.
“I think my faith allowed me to accept what was going to happen, and even in the worst times, God is there to comfort you, and that is something that I thought made a big difference in the way I approached dealing with cancer.”
For close to two months after receiving treatments that included a lumbar puncture, Arnold was relegated to lying flat on his back. Any kind of movement upward would result in ferocious headaches and pain. He said that was probably the most devastating time of his experience.
After that he was able to finally sit up, allowing him to do more, and that helped pass the time.
“It was long days and even longer nights,” Arnold said. “But once I was able to sit up, it got easier. But I never pitied myself, and faith was a really big part of that. Cancer is scary, and I didn’t want to be a burden on my family and make them worry, so I tried my best to stay positive all the time. I wanted to be the same upbeat person I always was, and that allowed us to have more of a normal life.”
As normal as can be with a young man bed-ridden for two months as he battles cancer.
Arnold said that seeing people at the James on the other end of the psychological spectrum, people who were beaten down by cancer, people who had given up or were bitter, made him even more determined to stay positive.
“Not having that faith to stand on is tough,” he said. “Not having family to lean on is bad too. Those are your two crutches. I don’t know how people do it without those crutches to lean on because there are points where I realized how awful this whole thing was, but then I realized how much I had, and it lifted my spirits.”
Throughout the experience, phone calls, texts and letters poured in as people showed their love and support for Arnold. Those daily reminders spurred him to remain positive, and he said that now if he has a chance to share about his experience, he will gladly do so.
He said it also has helped him appreciate the little things in life that he took for granted before cancer set in.
“You gain some appreciation about how really important things in life can be taken away so quickly,” he said. “Looking back, I think like a lot of young people I had this sense of invincibility. Now I am more careful in how I take care of myself, and I’ve learned to be grateful for so much more.”
Having fought off cancer, Arnold now is eager to see where life takes him. He continues to work toward getting back in shape for his final basketball season and to finish his college degree in business management.
You can hear his entire story, from diagnosis to his hopes and dreams for the future, at the upcoming Holmes County Walk for the James.
Holmes County Walk for the James replaced the annual American Red Cross Holmes County Relay for Life event last year, and event coordinator
Julie Sponaugle said it was a nice success as they moved into a new venue and aided a new cause.
Walk for the James continues the same passion from the community in showing love and support for cancer patients that Relay for Life did.
“Our focus remains on connecting with and supporting cancer patients and their support groups,” Sponaugle said. “The new walk will provide support for the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, and we love being connected with the James because we feel like this helps bring the fight closer to home for a lot of people.”
Sponaugle said there are a number of cancer survivors in Holmes County who have sought treatment at the James Cancer Hospital including Arnold and Father Ron Aubrey, long-time priest at St. Peter in Millersburg and St. Peter and Paul in Glenmont. The James also now has new connections with Wooster Community Hospital, so it does bring things very close to home for many.
“The main message that we want to share with people is that we have not given up on fighting cancer and honoring our cancer patients,” Sponaugle said. “That will remain the same. There is no way we are giving up on cancer patients. This is all about us showing cancer patients and their families that we are here to walk with and support them. We have the same passion for helping individuals and families dealing with cancer that we’ve always had, and hearing Brady’s story is inspirational.”
This year’s Holmes County Walk for the James will take place Friday, June 15 at Harvest Ridge near Millersburg. The event will feature plenty of things for kids including bounce houses and Touch-a-Truck, where families can come and check out a number of law enforcement and fire and EMS vehicles. The adults can participate in the Buckeye raffle, which will be full of neat Ohio State University items and more. Three Little Piggies food truck will be on hand for those who get a hankering for some great food.
There will be a Warrior Dinner from 4-5:30 p.m. with opening ceremonies taking place at 6 p.m.
Representatives from the James Cancer Center will speak, along with Arnold, who will share his inspirational story of overcoming cancer.
The walk itself will take place from 6 p.m. to midnight. Anyone with questions or wanting to donate items for the raffle or join the walk itself may do so by calling Sponaugle at 330-231-5924.