Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senior with terminal illness still plays softball

THE VILLAGES — When John Brake heard the unwelcome news from his doctor in April, he had a life-altering decision to make.

Brake had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and doctors had given him just six months to a year to live.

So Brake faced a choice: Did he want to spend his time moping, watching TV and being angry at the world, or did he want to fight back and reclaim what little time he had left?

He chose to make the best of his situation and get back to doing what he loves — playing softball. Seven months after the diagnosis, Brake still is playing in The Villages Men's Recreation League.

It's a fight that has left his peers in awe.

"Knowing that he doesn't have much time left and he's playing, well, we all love him," softball teammate Jack Skelly said. "It's one of those feel-good stories."

Of course, it hasn't always been a feel-good story.

After the diagnosis and a few rounds of chemotherapy, Brake had lost a lot of weight and wasn't feeling like himself.

The chemotherapy had hit Brake hard — so hard that he calls it the worst month of his life.

Brake was alive, but he wasn't living. He couldn't do any physical activity — no softball, no golf, he barely could walk.

"I was looking bad, looking like I was a dead man," Brake said.

Upset at his failing condition and ineffective treatments, he decided to discontinue chemotherapy and see what would happen.

"I knew it wasn't going to cure anything," he said. "They said it might give me a little better quality of life, which it didn't. So I just said, 'That's it; it is going to go whatever way it goes.'" The way it went was up. Brake was determined to sink or swim on his own. He had no idea it would turn out to be one of the best decisions he ever made.

Brake started eating more, getting back up to his normal weight. He felt much better. He started getting out of the house more, even finding the strength to play a little golf.

He continued to get out, get back in shape and put back on the weight he had lost during chemotherapy treatments.

Brake knows he is fortunate to still be playing softball, and he doesn't plan on wasting any of the moments he has left.

"I figured I would be dead by now, frankly," he said. "So why not ride it as long as you can?"

Senior with terminal illness still plays softball 11/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 9:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump's lawyers seek to undercut Mueller's Russia investigation


    Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar …

    President Donald Trump is said to be irritated by the notion that the special counsel's investigation could reach into his and his family's finances. [Associated Press]
  2. North Tampa shooting leaves one man dead


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A man was fatally shot Thursday afternoon after an argument with another man escalated, police said.

  3. St. Pete City Council tightens building rules in historic areas

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — There's a battle being waged over the soul of the city's historic neighborhoods.

    A new larger home sits next to a smaller one in the Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
  4. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  5. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.