Santa Clara’s Papenfus returns to court less than 4 months after surgery for brain tumor

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 10, 2015 at 12:09 am Contact Matt: mcschnei@syr.edu | @matt_schneidman It was the middle of the day on June 17, 2014 at Bronco Youth Basketball Camp in Santa Clara, California and Andrew Papenfus was demonstrating a simple shooting drill for middle school kids.The Santa Clara senior forward was primed to get significant minutes in his final season after bouncing around between D-I and D-II basketball, team manager and practice player in his first couple years of college.But then his life changed.“All of a sudden I just went down and I had a seizure,” Papenfus said.Papenfus was rushed to O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, California where he received a CT scan and an MRI. He remembers lying in the MRI machine, believing that God was speaking to him, giving him a feeling that something was wrong with his head.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFifteen minutes later, the doctors confirmed what was feared. Papenfus had a brain tumor.The diagnosis showed that the tumor was benign, and Papenfus eventually had it removed on Oct. 6. He was told before the operation that his basketball career could very well be over. Papenfus changed his diet and sleeping patterns to cater to his medical condition, and put basketball last among his priorities.But on Jan. 31, albeit for only three minutes and 58 seconds in a blowout loss, Papenfus got to finally play in a game again. Though his basketball career will never be the same, and the tumor has the ability to grow back, Papenfus vows to use his story to inspire others.“It’s something that I’m going to have to deal with the rest of my life,” he said. “Just being able to put back on a jersey, to say I did it, I made a comeback.”In his freshman year at Santa Clara, Papenfus wanted to become involved with the basketball team. There were already 18 players on it though, so the best head coach Kerry Keating could offer was a spot as team manager.Papenfus thought that’d be the best starting point to become a walk-on, as he’d learn the ins and outs of the program and get to even spend some time as a practice player.“Sometimes kids like that want it all right away and when it doesn’t happen they just give it up,” Keating said. “That wasn’t the case with him.”But after one year, Papenfus got a scholarship offer from D-II Hawaii-Hilo and decided to transfer to get playing time and have his education paid for. It wasn’t long before he was back in California, though, as his academic pursuits led him back to SCU and a spot on the basketball team as a practice player.He played sparingly in the 2013–14 season, logging under six minutes per game. But with nine freshmen and sophomores on the team this year, Keating said that Papenfus — who was one of two redshirt seniors — would see more significant minutes in his final season.“I’d come such a long way as far as my playing capabilities,” Papenfus said. “I had a very strong offseason and based on the team dynamics, I was looking forward to actually contributing as a walk-on.”Even when the tumor was discovered, Papenfus was given the option to postpone surgery until after the season and deal with the implications then. His first thought was to do just that, as he’d worked too hard to cut his basketball potential short.But then he thought again.“What’s one year of basketball for 20 years of life?” he asked himself.After the surgery, Papenfus changed his lifestyle. He strived to get eight straight hours of sleep every night and keep his sleeping patterns more consistent. With his diet, he educated himself on the medical applications of food rather than the athletic ones he already knew.He shifted to a plant-based intake, focusing on whole foods instead of processed sugars, unhealthy carbohydrates and other foods that aren’t the best for brain health.His condition steadied, which set the stage for his return to the court. With Santa Clara trailing BYU by 23 in the second half, Keating knew what his next move would be since doctors had just cleared Papenfus for action.“I still don’t have words to really describe how I felt during that,” Papenfus said. “The emotions were just so raw and pure. I really wasn’t thinking about anything else other than running up and down the floor.”And though the Broncos lost by 21, the 78-57 result was far from the forefront of Papenfus’ mind. He called basketball a platform that can provide a distraction from his medical condition.When anyone tries to bring up the tumor, the seizure or anything medical-related, Papenfus shuts it down and reverts to talking basketball.“There’s something about that, a strength about that, that I don’t think many people have,” fifth-year forward Dominic Romeo said. “It’s really clear that when he is there, he’s there not because he wants some sort of sympathy or he’s not there because he has to be there. He’s there because he wants to be a part of the program.”Papenfus has another scan coming up in March to make sure the tumor hasn’t grown back. He’ll always live with the thought that it might, and admitted that the uncertainty of that is the hardest part.But he doesn’t have time to harp on that. Basketball has provided him with a respite from everything else, and that’s all he could ask for.Said Papenfus: “Worrying isn’t going to change the outcome.” Commentslast_img

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