Saturday, June 23, 2018
Health

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?"

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