Home / Sports / In life of horses and hockey, Eddie Olczyk never faced odds like his cancer battle

In life of horses and hockey, Eddie Olczyk never faced odds like his cancer battle

Eddie Olczyk, with NBC’s Mike Emrick, prior to a Capitals playoff recreation (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Publish)

Eddie Olczyk recollects the precise time: 7:07 p.m. He used to be mendacity in mattress, convalescing from surgical treatment. Medical doctors had simply got rid of 14 inches of his colon and a tumor the scale of a fist. The home telephone began ringing, and the incoming quantity flashed on his tv display.

“It used to be Northwestern Health center,” Olczyk recalled. “Glance, with my enjoy of being a hockey participant and being a dad, you recognize any telephone name at previous 7 o’clock from the sanatorium, it’s now not a just right name.”

He let it ring and ring. “Aren’t you going to respond to it?” his spouse requested. “No, I do know what’s at the different line,” Olczyk mentioned.

He after all picked up, and his worst fears have been showed: colon most cancers, they mentioned. Degree three. “And identical to that, the entirety roughly stopped,” he mentioned. “However on the identical time, issues additionally began going actually rapid: How used to be I going to inform my youngsters? What does this imply? Am I going to reside?”

Olczyk, the previous NHLer who’s now an analyst on NBC’s protection of hockey and horse racing, is telling this tale 10 months later, sitting within the stands at Capital One Area prior to a hockey apply in the course of one in all his busiest and favourite weeks of the 12 months. Not up to a 12 months after a analysis that now and then felt like a dying sentence, he’ll quilt two Japanese Convention finals video games between the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning in Washington prior to heading to Baltimore for Saturday’s broadcast of the Preakness Stakes.

The 51-year-old is cancer-free and has resumed a hectic paintings agenda. His hockey research is well-regarded, his Preakness choices extremely expected. (He did, in spite of everything, hit the trifecta together with his Kentucky Derby choices two weeks in the past, the second one time in 4 years he has nailed the race’s most sensible 3 finishers.) However getting up to now used to be an extended street.

Medical doctors have been hopeful they’d effectively extracted the cancerous portion of his colon however strongly really useful additional remedy. The oncologist didn’t know Olczyk’s historical past handicapping horses when she mentioned, “ ‘Glance, if you wish to take your possibilities and gamble and now not take the chemo–,’ ” Olczyk recalled. “I mentioned, ‘You’re speaking to the incorrect man if you wish to get into playing and odds.’ Is that this extra like Justify or like Exaggerator a pair years in the past within the Preakness?”

He chuckles now. In fact, again in August, he slightly heard a phrase the physician mentioned. He used to be nonetheless convalescing from surgical treatment and couldn’t even start chemotherapy till Sept. 11. He faced the worry the similar approach he used to be ready to grind out a 16-year taking part in occupation, adopted via a a hit run broadcasting within the sales space and a stint training at the bench: He straight away began plotting out targets.

Olczyk went to an OfficeMax and acquired an outsized calendar. He put large black Xs on each different Monday — chemotherapy appointments — after which start marking off essential dates and milestones he may just stay up for: hockey video games he sought after to paintings, vacations, the Breeders’ Cup, his daughter’s commencement.

NBC inspired him to take no matter time he wanted, however Olczyk promised his bosses he’d be again full-time via the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Triple Crown. He wasn’t positive, although, how a lot he’d have the ability to paintings prior to then.

Olczyk works on his pregame notes prior to Sport three of the Capitals-Lightning sequence. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Publish)

Chemotherapy concerned two hours on the sanatorium each different week. He’d go away dressed in a fanny pack that will proceed to ship remedy for 48 directly hours, one gradual drip at a time.

“Each minute the pump is going and also you listen that sound — it seems like a hairdryer occurring for a split-second,” Olczyk mentioned. “While you’re sitting on your own and also you’re feeling terrible and that’s all you listen over and over again, you’re pondering, ‘How on the planet am I going to get via this?’ ”

The primary few therapies have been particularly tough. He used to be knocked out for days. There used to be nausea and vomiting. He had nosebleeds and a blood clot in his leg. His sense of style dulled, his palms and toes have been hit with neuropathy, and he infrequently misplaced chunks of hair. Later he’d broaden a hernia associated with his preliminary surgical treatment. And because of the medication, he won 40 kilos and used to be larger than he’d ever been in his lifestyles.

There used to be a mental toll, too. Olczyk felt he used to be letting down his friends and family, letting down NBC and letting down the Chicago Blackhawks, for whom he often pronounces video games.

“After the second one or 0.33 remedy, I consider telling my spouse: ‘I’m executed. I will be able to’t do that,’ ” he mentioned. “And he or she simply roughly checked out me and grabbed me via the fast hairs and mentioned, ‘Battle for me, struggle for our children, and struggle for the folk that love you.’ ”

He stored consulting the calendar and learned there used to be a duration past due in each and every remedy cycle when he felt higher. He began figuring out some video games he may just paintings for the Blackhawks, and later for NBC.

“He’s a hockey man. While you step right into a rink, there’s particular odor, a way, a really feel. Eddie wanted that normalcy,” mentioned Sam Flood, NBC’s govt manufacturer. “His circle of relatives had taken him to rinks all the way through his lifestyles; he has such a lot of recollections. So it used to be a reminder of the way particular lifestyles is. I feel that helped encourage him to paintings tougher, endure via no matter ache the chemo and the therapies have been sending his approach.”

Olczyk in the end made it to 14 video games this season, a few 0.33 of his standard workload, each and every one a welcome break out.

“I simply needed to get the hell out of the home. Simply take into accounts one thing rather than the medication and the entirety else,” he mentioned. “I don’t imply to be disrespectful via announcing this, nevertheless it used to be a really perfect distraction. It took me away and helped move the time. It used to be lovely soothing, you recognize?”

In any case, on Feb. 21 at nine:04 a.m. — in fact, he recollects the precise time — Olczyk used to be unhooked for the closing time. He underwent a last scan and, 3 weeks later — March 14 at five:04 p.m. — the telephone rang once more. He eagerly spoke back it this time.

His scan used to be blank. Olczyk used to be in tears as he shared the inside track with circle of relatives, buddies and associates. The playoffs have been drawing near, the Triple Crown used to be across the nook, and Olczyk used to be desperate to tackle a larger workload.

Whether or not he’s at a monitor or a rink, an airport or a resort, he encourages other people he meets now not to attend on a colonoscopy. He’ll wish to go through checkups each 3 months for the following couple of years, however he has already dropped 25 kilos. “I don’t want the Vaseline to leap into my pants anymore,” he joked.

Olczyk used to be excited that slightly of scheduling serendipity allowed him to paintings hockey in D.C. and horse racing in Baltimore this week. Greater than anything else, he’s glad for the normalcy.

“Glance, most cancers goes to be with me the remainder of my lifestyles. I do know that,” he mentioned. “However I simply really feel like now I’m at ease, in a great spot and I’m round folks that I wish to be round and appreciative for the chance.”

Extra hockey and horses:

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