As much as we hate to admit it, life rarely goes as planned. Things change, goals are put on the back burner and we sometimes get lost in the shuffle. However, with any challenge comes an opportunity to grow and, ultimately, become stronger. Drew Harm, a member of the Albion College men’s lacrosse team, knows this all too well.
Harm’s story requires a bit of backtracking. During one of the team’s first practices in January 2016, the Rochester, Michigan, native was hit in the back of the head by a shot. He described feeling a shot of numbness run through his body. Despite wanting to get up and keep playing, he felt like he couldn’t move.
“When the ball hit me, I remember basically collapsing and feeling a shot of numbness run through my body,” he explained via email. “All I wanted to do was get up and get back to playing, but I couldn’t move.”
An immediate CT scan at the hospital would reveal a startling result: a benign cyst on Drew’s brain. After many follow-up MRI’s and consultations from family doctors, he was informed that the cyst may have formed long before he even started playing lacrosse. Doctors concluded that the mass of the cyst would be monitored through consistent MRI’s. In the meantime, it was business as usual for Harm.
And business was booming. Having spent two years on the bench, Harm transitioned seamlessly to the starting role. “His enthusiasm was unreal,” said Head Coach Jake DeCola. “And that enthusiasm was put into every single play on the field last year.”
Harm finished the 2017 lacrosse season tied for fifth on Albion’s single-season goal list. His season helped him garner second-team All-MIAA honors. Later in the year, though, things took a dramatic turn.
In August, doctors had noticed significant growth within Harm’s tumor, and by December, brain surgery came into the conversation.
“I had no symptoms, but it was showing that the tumor was growing closer and closer to a major control center of my left arm and leg,” he explained. “It became clear to me just after the new year that I needed to have this thing removed when looking at the big picture.”
Harm underwent surgery on January 25, 2018. In losing this potentially debilitating tumor, he gained a new perspective. He is recovering peacefully at home.
“[Surgery] just taught me a lot about patience and taking life as it comes,” he said in retrospect. Quoting Rocky Balboa, he claimed, “It’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Drew has been far from alone in the recovery process. His teammates keep close contact, and he tries to attend as many games as he can in reciprocation.
“It gives me something to look forward to each week,” said Harm.
DeCola also recognizes the importance of Drew’s presence this season. “We are happy to have him reunited with the group, and we hope to see a full recovery.”
The support and sympathy has not been limited to his teammates. Classmates, professors, alumni and even MIAA lacrosse rivals have reached out with a text or card, some even sending gifts.
“I am truly grateful for the massive family I have gained from the Albion lacrosse team,” he said.
While the recovery process has been smooth sailing so far, Harm is still facing uncertainty when it comes to his future. As a kinesiology major, physical therapy school remains a solidified plan for Drew, but he is still unsure of when he will officially finish his coursework at Albion College. Despite everything, he has still been offered the opportunity from the college to walk at graduation this spring with his fellow classmates. Overall, he remains optimistic.
“Life doesn’t stop for anyone,” he said when reflecting on the operation. “The plan that you may have now may not match up with the story you tell of how you got to where you are presently.”
While Harm’s story may differ from that of the average college student, the strength and resilience he exudes in the face of difficulty proves him to be, above all, a fighter.
Photo courtesy of Albion Athletics.