Tuesday will be more than just a game for the Mid-Pacific boys basketball team. Much much more.
It’ll be senior aloha night, sure, but what will make this game special, meaningful and emotional will be the return of a player who saw the lives of his family, especially his father, get turned cruelly upside down and inside out in just a few short months. Senior Ben Swanson will fly back from Minnesota to participate in the 5 p.m. game at MPI’s Mills Gym. Since he’s attending school on the mainland, he won’t be able to play. But he’ll be there on the bench.
He’ll be back, accompanied by his relatives. But he’ll be without his immediate family faithfully in the stands.
They will be back in Minnesota, where Ben’s father, Brad, is undergoing treatment for incurable brain cancer. But Ben will be with his team one last time, surrounded by friends and Mid-Pacific supporters who will be wearing #SwansonStrong wristbands and t-shirts specially made to support the Swanson family cause. One of the first who will greet Ben will be fellow senior Den Suehiro, who’s been Ben’s teammate in basketball and volleyball since the seventh and eighth grade.
“The circumstance that he’s in right now is really tough for him,” Suehiro said. “That’s your dad! When you have that kind of sickness … I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.”
Suehiro said whenever Ben arrives, he will want him to know that “I want to be there for him.
“Even when he’s in Minnesota, I told him that if he needs anything, just call me up. I’ll get him whatever he wants. I’ll do anything for him … because we were so close and what happened with Coach Brad … he was part of the program since Ben started in the 7th grade. His sons went to Mid-Pac and played in the program. He’s our club coach … I don’t know, it’s real hard.”
Brad was more than just Ben’s father, a loving husband to Jen, who was a teacher at Mid-Pac until this happened, and a friend to nearly every life he touched. Brad helped mentor and nurture young Mid-Pacific basketball players as a coach of the school’s club team, called the OWLS, which stood for Oahu White Lightning Squad. He was one of the founding fathers of the club, whose goal was to keep the Mid-Pac kids playing together during the off season.
“Brad is such a nice, giving guy,” said Ryan Hirata, MPI’s first-year coach. “He’s done a lot for the basketball program in terms of coaching our kids throughout the years and I think that it’s really important that we have an opportunity to teach these kids more than just basketball, but about life.”
That life took a sudden turn back in November with what they thought was a severe reaction to food. In late December his vision started to become blurry. Later, an MRI showed some irregularity on the right side of his brain. More hospital stays and more puzzlement followed. Brad and Jen went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in January and Brad had a needle biopsy Jan. 20.
On the birthdays of his sons, Ryan and Ben, and the day before his 51st birthday, Brad was told he had multicentric glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor in what appeared to be in three places.
In hopes of slowing the growth of the tumors, Brad began his six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy treatments on Feb. 2 at the Mayo Clinic.
“(In) basketball you miss shots, (in) basketball you turn the ball over. At the end of the day when the buzzer sounds, you go back living your life and life is a precious thing and sometimes we forget about that,” Hirata said. “But something like this, where Brad is struggling and his family struggling through trying time is when we as a community need to come together to support them.
“(It) teaches you and puts things in perspective about life, how precious it is … but hopefully, he stays strong, his family stays strong and we’ll be there to support them every step of the way.”
Those wanting to help the Swanson’s cause can make donations to:
Brad and Jennifer Swanson Family Benefit
c/o Brian Beste
1408 Oakpointe Dr.
Waconia, Minn. 55387