The sinking news came early last November at a time when most families were beginning to prepare for the holiday rush and while the Northwest football team prepared for one of their toughest tests of the year.
With Central Washington staring the 'Cats directly in the face, former quarterback and current wide receiver's coach, Joel Osborn was facing an even scarier foe: cancer.
Osborn discovered a small lump in his testicle, but admitted a sense of denial at his untimely discovery.
"I didn't feel the side affects of being sick," Osborn said. "I could just feel a lump...I was kind of in denial a little bit and then things all of sudden came to a point, when one day I was working out and everything was really sensitive. I sat down and it was sensitive: I was in pain."
After being directed to see a doctor, his denial soon turned to reality. The lump had progressed to a tumor larger than the size of his testicle, which called for immediate surgery and removal of both the cyst and testicle.
Today, Osborn finds himself fighting and treating his condition with regular visits to cancer treatment facilities to receive chemotherapy, which has left him bald but not discouraged.
With his newly wed wife, Audrey, by his side, Osborn sits through treatment after treatment of intensive chemo, lasting five hours per day, with bathroom breaks needed every five to 10 minute for the first five days of each 21-day cycle. The extent of his chemo stretches over an 84-day stint. Osborn said the side affects last well past the five initial days of chemo, extending to the tenth day of each cycle before he feels well again.
The treatment wreaks havoc on Osborn's sense of taste, turning his meals into an effort to swallow without choking on the tasteless mass. Even water is unappealing to the taste pallet as a distinct metallic taste overcomes his sense of taste. But, he and his wife have discovered through efforts of trial and error that Gatorade is one thing he can tolerate, evident by the large bottle that rests by his chair during treatment.
Osborn refuses to let this hinder his duties as a graduate assistant. Coaching from up in the box during the Cal-Penn. semifinal game, he found himself down on the field one short week later for the National Championship against Grand Valley.
Osborn is no stranger to the title game or even the day-in and day-out grind it takes to find oneself toeing the line as one of the championship finalists.
"He was the epitome of preparation," head coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "You couldn't find anyone who put more into his game preparation, from film study, to conditioning, workouts, what he did on the practice field; everything he did in preparation for football, he did to the very best of his ability. That's why when this all came about I didn't have any doubts that it'd be the same type of thing for coaching."
Junior Jake Soy and the wide receiving core get the chance to work with Osborn on a daily basis whether it be from his view from the booth or one-on-one down on the field.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Soy said. "Everyone has a lot of respect for him. You seem him out there and he's going through chemo and he hasn't missed a practice yet. He's always up there in the booth. You can tell he enjoys it, too. It's a big time respect factor."
Osborn's aggressive approach to chemo has forced him to adjust along the way, limiting the time he spends on the sideline, but not allowing that to prevent him from his
duties as coach. He makes his way to the press box, where he adorns the headset for the remainder of practice.
With five hours of his day restricted to a recliner in the cancer treatment center, he finds his escape in the Lamkin Activity Center, at the end of the familiar hallway that houses the football offices.
"It actually makes me feel normal when I leave here (the treatment center) and go up to the school for a couple of hours," Osborn said.
Through all that Osborn has endured in just under the last year, he finds a silver lining in it all, a lining in the form of a message that would make any coach proud.
"It's made me realized that if you're going to go through life, you might as well do things the right way, as far as taking shortcuts and appreciating everything you have," Osborn said.