STROHECKER: Eastern York grad continues to improve after battle with leukemia
The great thing about sports is that they can often give you some relief from the harsh realities that every day life can bring.
Whether it's engulfing yourself in an event on television for a couple hours or playing a pick-up game with friends in the park, athletics can help you escape many problems.
Such was the case for Brandon Hohenadel, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2012 as a senior at Eastern York High School. In between chemotherapy sessions and his bone marrow transplant last spring, Brandon's outlet was basketball, a sport he played up through his freshman year at Eastern.
While he was still too frail to play the sport, he watched it on television, following two of his favorite teams, Villanova and Syracuse. When he finally worked up the strength to begin exercising again, the basketball court served as his gym.
It was there that he got back to, not only living a much more typical life, but back to his normal strength. He regained his strength and stamina to the point where playing pick-up games with his friends hardly affected him anymore.
"At first, I'd get really winded pretty quick and I wasn't able to do very much," he said. "I didn't really have any leg strength and I'd get fatigued really easily. But now I can do pretty much what I always could before — jump and run like I used to. So my conditioning is pretty good now. Back to normal."
Brandon even had the opportunity to go up to Syracuse this past December and got to meet the men's basketball team before one of its practices and then sit court side at the Dec. 22 game against Colgate.
But that was all information that he revealed when The York Dispatch first did a story on his condition last year.
Since then, his condition has only improved. The Eastern York grad has been in remission now for more than a year and just a year removed from his transplant, both of which are giant milestones in his path to recovery.
Brandon's Battle: The one-year mark is monumental not just from a health standpoint, but also serves as the moment when Brandon could get in touch with his donor and finally put a name and a face to the person who saved his life.
"We have been able to contact the donor now and that's something that's very touching for us because without him, Brandon probably wouldn't be here right now," Brandon's mom, Lisa Hohenadel said. "He literally saved Brandon's life. So, that's something that we're really pleased that we were able to find out about him too."
"It was one more part of the recovery process that Brandon could cross off his checklist. The next might be taking up another sport, besides basketball.
Brandon hasn't played a whole lot of golf since his childhood, but now might be the time to rekindle those memories. Brandon's family began the Brandon's Battle Foundation as a way to raise money to pay for his treatments, but also to help other pediatric cancer patients.
When Brandon was holed up inside Hershey Medical Center, there wasn't a whole lot for him to do in the time between chemo sessions. So, part of the foundation's purpose was to raise money to buy activities to give to patients to help pass the time. Puzzles, drawings, paintings and other small, but precious, activities are bundled together in goody-bags that can be bought and donated to pediatric patients.
Between Brandon's monthly doctor appointments and gathering items for the goody-bags, bills became expensive. That's where golf comes into play.
This year, the Hohenadel family will hold the second annual "Brandon's Battle" Golf Tournament at Cool Creek Golf Club, the main event for Brandon's Battle Foundation in its fund-raising efforts to help foot the bill for Brandon's numerous check-ups and to make sure that other patients can still receive their goody-bags. The outpouring of support and donations have led to Brandon's Battle raising more than $12,000 since it began in January 2013.
The event is only a small token of appreciation from the Hohenadel family.
"You don't hear about so many pediatric patients until you become the family to a pediatric patient," Lisa said. "And there's so many people in this area that have sick children, or have had sick children, that have lost the fight and it's just amazing how many people reach out to you. ...It's just amazing how so many become your personal contact."
As of right now, entries for this year's golf outing are off to a slow start, but Lisa believes that as the June 27 date nears and families coordinate vacation plans, it will again get a nice turnout, like last year's event. As for Brandon, he's looking toward the next chapter in his life. With his health steadily improving every day, he's turned his attention to enrolling in college and starting his pursuit of becoming a sports agent in the fall 2015 semester. He's currently waiting to hear back about acceptance into the University of Miami and, of course, Syracuse.
For more information on how you can donate and support the Brandon's Battle Foundation and this summer's golf outing, visit brandonsbattle.com.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.