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Close to Home

It’s been a brutal week for so many people on so many levels. As we remain hunkered down during this COVID-19 crisis, people across the country are losing their jobs, their businesses and their livelihoods. Worse still, their lives. This week, we’re reeling from the horrific and senseless slaughter in Nova Scotia.

Some things hit closer to home than others. On a personal level, I was told this week my contract with The Mustard Seed would be terminated at the end of April as part of cuts at the longstanding nonprofit that works with the homeless. With Hockey Helps the Homeless and other fundraisers cancelled or postponed, revenue has evaporated, donations are way down. After almost three years, there is just no way to make it work right now. So, it’s out the door, just like so many others.

As much as that sucks, my son Sam and my wife Analyn are healthy. We’ll get through this. So many other people are far worse off. I’ve tried to keep that in perspective when I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself. That hasn’t been difficult because one of those people is my friend Bryn Griffiths, former TSN morning show host in the pre-Dustin Nielson days and my podcast partner on The Outsiders. Bryn has been in hospital more than three weeks after surgery for stomach cancer. It’s been the fight of his life.

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We could all use some good news, a positive story amid all the gloom. I came across one this morning in the form of HHOFer and Winnipeg Jets’ great Dale Hawerchuk in a segment he did on radio station 680 JOB. Hawerchuk, diagnosed with stomach cancer last August, went through the same surgery as Bryn – removal of his stomach and chemotherapy – and is on the road to recovery. Bryn is just starting down that road. That’s as close to home as it gets.

WHAT HE SAID

“At first, it really feels like a death sentence,” Hawerchuk, who amassed 1,409 points in 1,188 NHL games, said about his initial diagnosis. “Then you realize, you know, this thing is beatable. A lot of people have beaten cancer. My prognosis was not good. My surgeon was pretty blunt right at the start . . . it’s not easy. It’s a battle. It’s a challenge. There are good days. There are rough days.

“This is a battle to stay alive. Sometimes I think people who have a cancer diagnosis can succumb to that. If I can reiterate to them that there are some tough days for sure. People have reiterated that to me. They told me through some of the chemo’s, ‘Man, you’re going to feel like you’re on your death bed. You’ve got to keep pulling yourself up. I went through that. It’s do-able. It’s beatable. I mean we’re all in quarantine right now with this COVID-19, but I’ve been in this quarantine for eight months, so that part is do-able as well. I’m still going.

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“It’s life-changing, life-altering, but I’m here on the other end. That’s all I can tell you. I hope I can live so many years than I can look back on this and these eight or nine months will seem just like a blip in my life. It’s one day at a time and whatever challenge is there, I’ll be ready and up for it. That’s all you can do.”

Hawerchuk talked about his journey back to health several weeks ago on the Ray and Dregs Podcast with Darren Dreger and Ray Ferraro. When Bryn, who hasn’t been able to have visitors during much of his stay in the hospital, is well enough, Hawerchuk intends to reach out to him. Today, Dale mentioned Nick Libett, who played 982 NHL games 1968-1981 and had the same surgery many years ago. Libett is now 74. 

THE ROAD BACK

“You’ve just got to hang in there,” said Hawerchuk, who is now 57. “Just know that it’ll get better. Have faith and have trust. It’s kind of like no pain, no gain, you know, like when you’re young and we’re trying to build our bodies so we can be hockey players. These are times when you really feel like you’re on your death bed – I went through that quite a few times. You just pull yourself back up.

“That would be my message to people. As bad as it seems at certain times, that can change. You can change that with doing the right things, doing what your doctors say and having the right attitude.”

Previously by Robin Brownlee