The month of November is “Hockey Fights Cancer” month. As someone impacted by this disease, I want to say thank you support and focus.
Cancer. It is one of the scariest and most confusing words in the English language. Every day, people everywhere are hearing “you have cancer,” or telling a loved one about their diagnosis. That is why the National Hockey League and Nashville Predators are dedicating to fight the disease.
“Hockey Fights Cancer” started 20 years ago when three former NHL players were facing their own battles. Maurice Richard (aka The Rocket) won eight Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. In 1998, it was revealed The Rocket was fighting abdominal cancer.
John Cullen attained 550 points over a 10-year career with four teams. Stewart faced non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And, Paul Stewart was known as a fighter during his hockey career, but played only 21 games in the NHL. He then moved to be an official working over 1000 games. He fought colon cancer.
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These three men, together, lead the NHL to create Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month. Through 2017, the initiative has donated over $18 million dollars to help fight the disease and help those inflicted by it.
To them, I say thank you.
My family is one of many who has been impacted by cancer. My parents and my oldest brother all have suffered from some form of cancer. Nothing can prepare you for hearing the words “I have cancer” coming from family members.
My dad, Jim, was initially diagnosed with Prostate cancer several years ago. He took well to treatment and fought it into remission. However, a couple years later, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer where plasma cell multiples and release protein into the bone. This leads to organ damage.
Treatments were tough, but my dad battled keeping his spirit high. When I spoke with him over the phone, you could tell he was tired, but not broken. Week after week, month after month, he took treatments and keep going. Doctors were pleased with how things progressed, and my dad told me he would be in remission soon.
Then, this May, something happened. Cancer returned to his prostate area, and had spread. Aggressive treatments were prescribed and my dad faced them with his usual determination. On June 10th, his body was overwhelmed, my father’s health turned dramatically. He was rushed to the hospital with my mom and brothers by his side.
When I arrived to see him, I was shocked. The man I looked up to all my life laid in a hospital bed, wires and tubes everywhere. Mittens covered his hands so he could not rip anything out. He was agitated, moving as if to communicate something to us that we couldn’t understand. When he saw my daughter, tears ran down his face. Then, I grabbed his hand. His body calmed down and he finally rested.
Later that day, before returning home, I had 10 minutes alone with him. I brought unopened Starting Lineup figures of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, two of his favorite players. Fathers’ Day was just a few days away, but it was time for goodbye.
My dad succumbed to this battle on June 14th.
My father was one of the most important people in my life. He taught me to be kind to all people no matter what. His love of music was passed down to me and I have followed that passion most of my life. We played tennis together when I was a kid. He was a counselor and my best friend.
This disease is not picky. My friend, Nicholas Blazek, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Nicholas and I met through CubbiesCrib, a FanSided site dedicated to the Chicago Cubs. He was a Site Expert that taught me how to start being a writer and encouraged me to move to Predlines. So far, he is doing well in his battle. Knowing we are the same age just shows me how cancer does not care about age.
It does not care about race or gender. Cancer sucks.
Thank you, NHL for a month supporting the fight. Thank you, MLB for the focus on Multiple Myeloma.
And thank you, fans, for your support of these ventures. Because of your help, we are helping those that are fighting cancer. You can help by donating to Hockey Fights Cancer or through purchasing special Nashville Predators gear.