Wolves Strong – Brennan Strong

So great to See Brennan doing well and playing the game he loves!

BRIGHTON — Brennan Cheladyn knew something wasn’t right.

“There were a couple occasions I had shortness of breath,” he said. “I didn’t always feel so great in the morning. I had some nausea.”

Brighton soccer coach Mark Howell and junior Brennan Cheladyn are recognized as being cancer survivors before a game against Hartland on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

It didn’t add up. Cheladyn was a teenage boy who played soccer at a high level throughout the year. Health and fitness shouldn’t have been an issue.

Then he heard the “C” word.

He had three swollen lymph nodes in his neck removed and was diagnosed on Jan. 10, 2019 with NLPHL, a cancer of the lymph cells.

“It was at first really hard to accept,” said Cheladyn, a freshman at Brighton High School at the time. “I was like, ‘How is this happening to me?’ I’m a young, healthy, pretty fit kid. How does this happen?’”

After undergoing chemotherapy, losing his hair and having “a lot of weird events happen to me,” Cheladyn was declared cancer-free on May 28, 2019.

He made a strong enough recovery to make the Brighton varsity soccer team as a sophomore three months later, even though he was still struggling with the after effects of his fight with cancer.

Now a junior and at full strength, Cheladyn is a starting defender for a team that picked up its sixth shutout of the season Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over Hartland at Scranton Middle School.

Playing a soccer game, something he’s done hundreds of times in his life, is something he no longer takes for granted.

“Oh, my gosh,” he said. “I’ve had such an amazing appreciation for life. Having that whole ordeal, just getting through it, coming back out here with my boys playing soccer, it’s so rewarding. Those couple of months were just terrible. They were hard to get through. I always thought when I’m through this, I’m just going to be happy every day and accept every day, and I can’t wait to get back on the field, too.”

Brennan Cheladyn of Brighton passes in the second half of the home game against the Hartland Eagles Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

Cheladyn and Brighton coach Mark Howell walked to the middle of the field together as they were recognized as cancer survivors before Brighton’s Pink Week game. Howell overcame a diagnosis of stage 4 melanoma cancer he received in 2012.

“It was emotional,” Cheladyn said. “It was really awesome to come out here on Pink Week. It’s always a touching moment for me and my coach and the whole team. Everyone is touched by cancer, everyone is affected somehow.”

When Cheladyn received his diagnosis, Howell became more than just a coach to him.

“He was phenomenal, honestly,” Cheladyn said. “He set up a program where all my teammates would bring me food, so my parents wouldn’t have to worry about getting me food and could just be concerned about my health. He was such an inspiration, too, giving me his story. It made me feel like a wimp only doing five months of stuff and him going through what he did.”

Howell said the way Cheladyn handled his fight with cancer was uplifting to the entire Brighton soccer program.

Brighton's Michael Kramer and Hartland’s Josh Kazyak (24) battle for the soccer ball on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

“As a teenage kid, I can’t even imagine going through all that,” Howell said. “All those uncertainties, all those fears, on top of being a teenage kid and doing all that stuff. He has such a great attitude. He’s so inspirational to all his teammates, to us as a coaching staff.

“I was already a grown man in my diagnosis, so as difficult as it was, I get a lot of inspiration just watching him live life and put a smile on his face, regardless of how hard a road he had. He’s been such a great beacon of light for the whole program for us to rally behind.”

Brighton (9-2-2) extended its unbeaten streak against Hartland to 31 games (30-0-1) with a first-half goal from Michael Kramer and second-half penalty kicks by Josh Adam and Nick Cassar.

“It was just a great ball from Connor Blood,” Kramer said of his goal. “I haven’t score in a couple games, so it was nice to finally put one in the back of the net, get some confidence up, get us a lead against a big rival, which put us in a position to win the game.”

Hartland fell to 1-7 with only two games left before its district opener at home against Walled Lake Northern at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’ve lost five games through shutdowns,” Hartland interim co-coach Eric Anderson said. “We’ve just been trying to get games in, trying to build up to that game speed getting ready for playoffs.”