2012-02-10 / Sports

Droesch Giving All In Fight Against Cancer

By Elio Velez

Clare Droesch gives instructions to Scholars’ Academy as an assistant coach last year in the PSAL ‘B’ championship game. Photos by William Thomas. Clare Droesch gives instructions to Scholars’ Academy as an assistant coach last year in the PSAL ‘B’ championship game. Photos by William Thomas. Clare Droesch has encountered a lot of things in her life.

Basketball has been the main constant for the Belle Harbor native. Droesch has been in the spotlight since first starring on the St. Francis de Sales playground. Her basketball talents helped Christ the King earn four straight CHSAA city high schools championship, while gaining her Player of the Year and All-American honors.

She has played in the spotlight of the Big East at Boston College, professionally in Portugal and coaching on the sidelines in high school and college.

Droesch is now taking on a battle greater than the game of basketball. The 29-year-old was diagnosed last December with stage four breast cancer which has spread to her spine, hips and lymph nodes.

Droesch (far left) celebrates after the Seawolves captured their first PSAL championship. Droesch (far left) celebrates after the Seawolves captured their first PSAL championship. It is going to be the fight of her life, but Droesch is not about to give up. Far from it. “I have to be positive,” Droesch said. “So many people see me now out when I’m out with my friends or watching my cousin [Kristin Henschel of Scholars’ Academy] or coaching, they will say I can’t believe you aren’t trying to hibernate?

“I tell them why be more negative when it’s already there? Every day you fight it. You can’t look long term. You take it one day at time.”

Droesch will battle the disease with chemotherapy treatments at the prestigious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on Manhattan’s East Side.

There will be good days and bad days for Droesch, who is currently an assistant varsity coach at St. Edmund Prep after being in a similar position guiding Scholars’ Academy to their first PSAL ‘B’ city championship in March of 2011.

Droesch and her family in an undated photo. Droesch and her family in an undated photo. Droesch felt something weird in her body last October when she grabbed a television remote in her parents’ room. She just wasn’t quite sure what occurred, but it didn’t feel right.

The feeling came again a few days after while she was running up and down the basketball court. There was no sharp pain or anything, but Droesch just knew something was wrong.

She has never been scared about anything, even when preparing to play a big game.

Droesch wasn’t scared even when she was battling debilitating pain from a plantar fasciitis injury that almost ended her senior year at Boston College. Her professional career in Portugal in 2006 ended with two surgeries to her feet. But that all changed after receiving the grim news.

“I felt something that didn’t feel right. I got it checked out. … you’re 29 years old and it’s the last thing you expect that’s ever going to be in your life,” Droesch said.

“An ultra sound, a biopsy and four days later your whole life flashes before your eyes.” She will admit that it wasn’t easy to take the news at first. But as it turned out, battling the disease wasn’t going to be as overwhelming when word spread in and outside the neighborhood about her diagnosis.

Droesch is an outgoing and friendly person, who will take the time out to give a basketball tip to a young player, or coach a team at the St. Francis de Sales Classic. She has made numerous friends in her travels the last few years when she was an assistant college coach at Vanderbilt and St. John’s.

The number of friends and people she has made in her travels would prove to be a huge emotional boost for Droesch.

Because she has limited medical coverage, Droesch does not have enough finances of her own to pay for the costly measures that need to be taken.

Her friends quickly came together to create the Friends of Crush Cancer Fund For Clare Droesch, which has raised money to handle the numerous travel and medical care costs. A public Facebook page at www.facebook.com/- ClaresCrushCancerFund has been opened.

On March 2, the Graybeards, along with many of her close friends, will hold a fundraiser at the Knights of Columbus from 6 to 11 p.m. to raise money for her medical expenses.

The Boston College grad can’t stop smiling on how grateful she is to receive such overwhelming support.

“I wasn’t expecting the way it turned out. It makes me feel more positive about everything going on, things people say to me, and to hear it from people, it’s amazing.”

Droesch is thankful to be coaching at St. Edmund Prep, where the team has gotten rid of their early struggles and have transformed into a dangerous team in the Brooklyn Queens CHSAA Division II league.

“If anyone is going to beat it, it’ll be her,” said Eagles coach Dan Doelger. She said to the girls, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me, I’m going to beat it.’ This is a whole team effort, actually it’s a whole basketball community effort. This isn’t us against Fontbonne or Kearney; everyone is trying to help her.”

St. Edmund player Erin Blum was excited when her next door neighbor joined. Blum was one of the students who organized an effort to raise money on February 1 by donating one dollar to wear New York Giants T-shirts or jerseys to class.

The total amount raised was $1500, more than Blum ever expected to happen. “We want to help her because she has a made a big impact coaching us. She has raised our game in so many ways. She has taught us something new every day,” Blum said. “It offers a lot of comfort that so many people want to help her.”

In the last few years, Droesch has realized that her calling is to coach at the high school level. The inspiration she has received from others only fuels her fight even further to beat this disease.

“I always wanted to get the best out of the kids. I never wanted to lose, that was my attitude and I wanted to always teach that to kids. I love having that effect. I loved being close to the kids at Scholars’, and they look at me as a role model,” Droesch said.

“These kids [at St. Edmund] are playing their heart out for me. As exhausted as I am today, I would love to lie down all day, I am going to go to practice. I have to be there. It gets me up and it gets me excited. I know if I can beat this, anyone can beat anything in life. I tell my players, my friends and family that I will show them I can beat this.”

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