Judging by the fact that on Wednesday morning – actually it was closer to noon – Chris Brady was cooking his son a package of sausages and three eggs for breakfast, it’s fair to say that not even chemotherapy treatments can slow down the metabolism and appetite of 16-year-old Owen Brady. In fact, aside from losing his hair and a few other minor side effects, the impact on his body has been minimal.
“It’s more of an annoyance and a frustration,” Chris said. “It’s not debilitating.”
When you’re dealing with cancer, you take your triumphs where you can get them and, relatively speaking, they’re coming in at a pretty good clip for Owen lately. He’s currently in the midst of his second of six 35-day chemotherapy cycles that will take him through September. He no longer needs a wheelchair and his right leg, which had the fibula removed to replace the bone graft in his cancerous left shin, will start to bear his full weight within the next few weeks. In fact, he’s looking to be back on his skates by June, with an eye to returning to play full-time by September of 2020.
And after the OHL draft last weekend, he now has a team. Based on his play last season with the Whitby Wildcats midget AAA team, Owen would have been a second-round pick, with an outside chance of going in the first round. That didn’t happen, but the Oshawa Generals stepped up to take him 106th overall. That put him in the sixth round, but it should be noted that he was the Generals’ fourth pick in the draft and their first of a defenseman.
“We have the steal of the draft if Owen can get back to even close to where he was,” said Generals GM Roger Hunt. “The hockey part was a no-brainer for us if he can come back to full health. And based on the times I’ve been around him, if anyone will be able to do that, it would be him.”
Owen's odyssey began last summer when he noticed what he thought was a harmless bump on his left shin. Even though it caused no discomfort, it continued to grow. He went to see a doctor in November and learned he had osteosarcoma, the kind of cancer Terry Fox had, a highly curable form of the disease, but one that would require invasive surgery and a long recovery process. A big part of that process was removing the fibula from his right leg to replace much of the tibia in his left where the tumor was located.
That essentially killed any chance Owen had of being a high draft pick, but his hometown OHL team took him with its fourth pick, knowing it will likely have to wait another 18 months before seeing him in uniform. The Generals have invited him to their rookie orientation camp next weekend and full training camp in September. He won’t be on the ice, but he will be indoctrinated into the organization. He and nine of the Generals other draft picks were introduced to the home crowd prior to the Generals’ second-round playoff game Tuesday night and Owen was able to join them on the red carpet, albeit on crutches. But after months of uncertainty, knowing he has an end goal has been a motivating factor.
“It’s actually really happening, you know?” he said. “It’s huge. It’s a great motivator to have something to work toward. It gives me more purpose and more drive to get better faster. (Chemotherapy) is a grind and it seems more like grunt work to get it done. There’s a beginning, middle and end to it, so you’ve kind of just got to put your head down and roll with the punches and go with it.”
Owen has begun working out with an eye to getting back on the ice in the summer, but the timeline is a long and somewhat fuzzy one. Even though the cancer is under control, the biggest factor will be when the replaced bone calcifies and fuses completely. The Generals have said he can skate with the team when he’s ready and there is a slight chance he might be able to join a major midget team late next season. “That bone has its own agenda as far as healing,” Chris said.
For his part, Owen is looking forward to the day when he can pull on an Oshawa Generals sweater and his biggest worry will be what number he wears. His customary No. 2 currently hangs in the rafters of the Tribute Communities Centre. Some guy named Bobby Orr wore it a few years back.
(Author’s note: In December 2018, we brought you the story of Owen Brady, a top prospect for the 2019 OHL draft who was diagnosed with cancer. We also said we would keep our readers updated on his journey to recovery, right up to his first OHL game. This is the third of those updates.)