Some say Kevin overachieved in every aspect of his life. That wasn’t because he was lucky… he had an amazing work ethic, he was determined, passionate and confident. He expected a great deal from his players, his coaching staff and everyone in his life, including himself. This is why Team Brown always felt he could do anything that he set his mind to.
In the winter of 2017, Kevin decided that he wanted to develop a five-year plan for retiring from education. He set age 55 as his potential retirement date. In January 2018, he decided to purchase a small campground in Carlock, Illinois. He loved Kamp Komfort and looked forward to this being his retirement job someday. This was where he would someday transition from Coaching Kevin to Camping Kevin… and these were sometimes distinctively different people.
Life was great. We decided to downsize and move into a newly remodeled home at the campground. When not teaching and coaching basketball, Kevin would sit in our cabin-like master suite and overlook Kamp Komfort. He was so proud of his new venture and he was great at it! In June 2018, five months after starting this new adventure, he began to experience what he would call minor issues. It began with slurred speech, as if he was numb from going to the dentist and a strange taste in his mouth. It would come and go and he could never really explain it. He decided that he thought it may be an issue with a root canal that got infected several years before, so he decided to see his dentist. There was nothing there to explain his symptoms, so he agreed to see a nurse practitioner that ordered him an immediate MRI to rule out a small stroke. I will always remember the call... "there is no way I can lay there with my head strapped to a table for 30-45 minutes." I asked what they said when he explained… his response, "I just left without telling them anything." Yep, that was Kevin.
A month later we were on our annual trip to Colorado. Kevin loved the mountains and spending time with our family and friends on this trip every year. We all noticed that he didn’t seem himself, but he went along with all of our plans and seemed to enjoy himself. The morning before we left, he was walking the dog and experienced a brief spasm in his jaw. He didn’t act like it was a huge deal, but I know he was starting to get a little concerned. Up to this point, he had decided that his previous symptoms were related to sinuses or maybe even stress as he was working a ton of hours with summer basketball and the campground. As we were driving home to Illinois, Kevin behind the wheel of our 45-foot motorhome, he began to have the strange taste in his mouth immediately followed by the spasm in his jaw. He turned to me and the left side of his mouth was completely drawn downward like a stroke. As scary as it was, all symptoms were gone within minutes and he finished the drive back home. Yes, not a wise choice to drive another ten hours back home… yep, that was Kevin.
The next morning, we contacted my mom’s doctor and he agreed to see Kevin as a new patient later that week. Long story short, we met with him on a Wednesday, had a sedated MRI the following Thursday and two days later (Saturday, August 4, 2018) our lives were forever changed. We were told Kevin had a brain tumor on the right side of his brain, and they believed it to be aggressive.
Before we left the office, we already had a plan to meet with a neurosurgeon that week. The next couple days were horrible. We were scared to death. Kevin said he just wanted to walk in there and find what he would consider his kind of doctor… someone who was confident and would say we are going to get this taken care of, and that is what he found. He immediately knew this was his guy and there was a plan to get the tumor removed that same week. We were so relieved and almost celebrating when he left. Then, the words that meant nothing to us at the time. The nurse came in to discuss the plans. She also informed us of the type of brain cancer he thought Kevin had… Glioblastoma (GBM). I have often said they could have called it anything. We hadn’t done any research, so we didn’t even know there were different types of brain cancers. The nurse gave us the news that if Glioblastoma, it isn’t a matter of if it comes back, but it is when. It is impossible to cure. Not the best news, but we had a plan. And everyone who knows Kevin, he always had a game plan.
From what I can remember of the days leading up to surgery, I am sure that we thought he would beat it. He would be the exception. Kevin would tell me that you could see it in some people’s faces that they were what he called "non-believers," but he always said that he was okay with it… he loved to prove people wrong. I often said it was like being down big with a minute to go and both he and I were the only ones in the gym that thought we could still win. Again… yep, that was Kevin.
Kevin had his tumor removed on August 10, 2018. It was a successful surgery and he set a goal to return to coaching that season. He learned several weeks later that it was indeed Glioblastoma, but he was going to once again overachieve and be the exception… he was scared, but never allowed for failure to be an option. He returned to teaching and coaching basketball on October 31, 2018, after six weeks of chemo and radiation. It was amazing, he was back to working out and looked and felt great.
After suffering a partial seizure on January 31, 2019, Kevin coached his last basketball game on February 1, 2019. Some may think that is crazy, but that was Kevin Brown. He showed amazing work ethic, determination, confidence and commitment to his team. Kevin was in so much pain, but he showed that night that he loved his boys. He never wanted to quit on them. The next day, as we sat in the emergency room, he cried so many tears saying, "what lesson am I teaching my boys??... I am not a quitter." The truth is he taught them so much about life as they watched him battle this horrible disease. They knew he was not a quitter, but instead a warrior. Yep, that is Coach Kevin Brown.
After having surgery in February, March and April, Kevin lost his battle on June 11, 2019. But, as his wife for almost 27 years, I have never been prouder of him. He gave it everything he had and he again overachieved. Kevin was there for his players, his coaching staff, his family and his friends until the day he passed.
Kevin was my best friend and my hero. I miss him terribly and like many of those who were a big part of his life, I am committed to making him proud. We are taking on his battle against Glioblastoma. We donated Kevin’s brain to Northwestern, where his April 13, 2019 surgery was performed, to help with research of this dreadful disease. An NFP foundation, KBSTRONG – Fighting the Fight, has been formed and the efforts are in full force. The board, made up of Kevin’s father, brother and some of his very best friends have established a plan to raise awareness for brain cancer. Much of the money raised will be donated to the University of Illinois School of Medicine to fund Glioblastoma research in Peoria, Illinois. Their events can be followed on the Facebook page, KBstrong – Fighting the Fight.
A recent announcement was made regarding the national basketball tournament that takes place in Washington, Illinois. In honor of Kevin, it has been renamed the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions. The tournament will partner with the KBSTRONG Foundation to raise awareness and help with funding research for Glioblastoma.
We are thankful for those who want to join our fight. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us through social media or our email address.
- Jodi Brown -