EDMONTON – "I feel it's a good time to share my story … I need a new liver to save my life."
Those are the heavy, impactful opening words from a social media post that Daniel Drummond published last month.
The three-time MacEwan men's soccer player of the year (2006-08), who has most recently been the lead assistant coach with the program under Adam Loga since 2017, has battled Ulcerative Colitis for more than two decades.
In 2007, when he was in his second season as a player with the Griffins, he was also diagnosed with a rare liver disease, known as Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). Those with the disease know they'll eventually need a new liver.
"At 22, my hepatologist told me that there is no cure, many patients will require a liver transplant and that there is a real threat of bile duct cancer within the first year," Drummond wrote. "This hit me pretty hard, but I learned about the disease, persevered and continued to have a positive mindset."
Over the past few months, though, his condition worsened as he lost 25 pounds, experienced jaundice setting in and was eventually told he needs a liver transplant to survive.
"By mid-February I became really unwell and had many lab tests, procedures, and a visit to the ER," Drummond continued in his post. "I had an MRI of my liver March 16 which showed significant increase in my PSC, which has affected me so drastically that I have struggled to function in daily life, let alone be active or work."
Griffins assistant coach Daniel Drummond (second from right) and head coach Adam Loga pose with graduating seniors Simon Dawe, left, Evan Berube and Stefan Gajic after the team's final home game of the 2021 Canada West season (Tia Schram photo).
Drummond had kept Loga in the loop, but was unable to work with Griffins players over the winter season. He wanted to tell them the news before he went public, though, so he fired off an e-mail to the team on April 12.
"It was important for me to tell the team and address the team," said Drummond. "Some of the players reached out immediately or later that week. It was probably a tough time because they were going through finals. It was just awesome to see the guys coming together, reaching out and caring for me."
Loga noted the team is doing what they can to support their friend and mentor.
"Obviously, we've been praying and hoping for him," he said. "He wasn't able to be around due to his health and just being immune-suppressant with COVID (still lurking), so he took a little bit of a step back this winter – rightfully so. It's tough, Obviously, he's a big part of the program.
"Now, we're trying to be there for him, keep his spirits up and support where we can."
On Sunday, they will be part of an event being organized by the Sherwood Park Phoenix – where Drummond serves as technical director – as the tight-knit soccer community comes together to support him with a 5 km run/walk (Sherwood Park's Millenium Place field, 9:30 a.m.).
Friends Sarah Thomsen and Sarah Munoz put together the event, where they're asking for a cash donation in lieu of a registration fee to support the Drummond family.
There is also a Go Fund Me set up to support the Drummond family as they navigate through the challenges ahead: CLICK HERE
"That's been super moving for me and my family," said Drummond, who also has many supporters at St. Edmund Soccer Academy, where he has worked off-and-on for five years. "I don't think I can express how much gratitude I have and what that's doing to help me get through it.
"It's a huge struggle. It's a big, major life event. I'm hopeful I can get through this. It's just been a crazy year. So, to have that happen has been very moving for me and my family."
Daniel Drummond, left, observes warmup with fellow Griffins coaches Dan Steiner and Adam Loga prior to a 2018 preseason game against UNBC at Clarke Stadium (Chris Piggott photo).
As much as he is concerned about his own health, Drummond also has others in mind, too. He hopes to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.
"Something I want to take out of this, as well, as time goes on … is just pushing organ donation, making people aware and just advocating for that," he said.
"I think like anything, the more you speak about something it just makes people aware. It can just be a positive change for people that maybe don't think about it right now."
His social media post breaking the news to friends ends with a positive message of hope as he maintains optimism, so key for the battle ahead.
"Still in this moment I have gratitude," he writes. "I have the most supportive family, friends, amazing wife, and two most special little ones. For these reasons, I have to continue to stay positive and overcome this hurdle. This is undoubtedly the biggest battle of my life and I will continue to keep you all posted. #PSCStrong"