When Adrian Conoboy runs a soccer camp or clinic for kids, they’re not just impressed with his credentials: a native of London, England, he was a full-time soccer coach in New York for the past eight years before being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. What really impresses the kids is that he is like them – a cancer survivor.
This year, Conoboy’s non-profit soccer program “We Can Kick It” was chosen by NYCFC (New York City Football Club) to represent New York as their MLS (Major League Soccer) Works Community MVP. “We can Kick It” ended up winning the nationwide competition sponsored by MLS and Wells Fargo Bank. His program was the recipient of a $25,000 check after receiving thousands of online votes for his cause.
While getting treatments for his cancer back in 2016, Conoboy saw lots of kids and family members coming into the hospital with similar diagnoses. “I thought to myself, what can I do?”
He knew he couldn’t coach full-time while recuperating, so he came up with the idea of empowering kids with cancer through the power of soccer. “We Can Kick it” was born. The foundation offers free soccer programs for kids affected by cancer and has helped not only the kids but his own recovery as he learns to live the “new normal” of brain tumor patients.
Conoboy helped run soccer at another charity camp back in 2017. “When he went to camp and stayed the whole week, the kids just loved it,” says Roz, Conoboy’s wife. “He was one of them.” That’s when he knew his charity could be a success.
His cancer surfaced out of the blue in August 2016, as Conoboy and Roz were heading back to their Manhattan apartment after swimming with friends. He experienced a seizure and a golf ball-sized tumor in his left frontal lobe was discovered. Just 35 at the time, he had surgery three days later, with the diagnosis of an Anaplastic Astrocytoma grade III and eventually underwent radiation and chemotherapy.
“I had damage to the right side of my body from the tumor location and couldn’t even hold a pen with my right hand,” he says. Significant rehab followed surgery as he was having to relearn to talk while battling with Aphasia. Interestingly, he discovered while he couldn’t talk or find the right words, he could sing songs he had known previously. “The doctors told me to keep singing,” he says. Six months later, he and Roz joined a New York Brit pop choir.
Conoboy’s parents came from England to help the couple deal with the appointments, treatments and rehab. Roz’s mom came for a month during radiation treatments so that Roz, a shoe designer, could go back to work. They said friends were a huge support as they navigated this unexpected part of their journey.
“My parents wanted to take me back home, but I had a dream and wanted to stay here,” says Conoboy. He came to the United States in 2010 to work with the New York Red Bulls academy program and has loved his life in America ever since. Since surgery, he’s been back to work in stages, but struggles with fatigue and other side effects of surgery and radiation.
On a side note, he and Roz were married in the East Village during a brief break from chemotherapy. Conoboy says he had picked out a ring two days before the seizure and had to find the words to get his sister to look at the picture on his phone as Roz had no idea. It took 10 weeks to get back to the jewelers, who must have wondered if he had gotten cold feet!
Adrian helps with pop-up soccer events at the American Brain Tumor Association’s annual BT5K New York and has attended a survivor’s panel at an ABTA meeting in conjunction with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He’s also been teamed with a survivor as a part of the CommYOUnity™ Connect mentoring program. “In a lot of the support groups, I’m the youngest guy in the group. It’s important to have someone your age to talk with,” he says, referring to his mentor.
And now that “We Can Kick It” is off the ground, Conoboy enjoys being a mentor to kids facing cancer.
In our 45 years, the most dramatic advances are being made now.
Let’s put our brains together to stop brain tumors once and for all. Your donation makes a difference.