When it comes to cancer, people don't always want to talk about it. Unfortunately, it's often a sad story. But it can also be an inspiring story about people who are fearless in times of adversity, people who have battled and people who are not afraid to put up a fight. Sometimes, it can be a happy story.
My dad, Arthur, was a big, strong guy. He could play any sport. To me, he could throw a ball a million yards. He hit golf balls the farthest. He always won when we played H-O-R-S-E. And he could play hockey better than any of us.
Then, all of a sudden, he was dwindling away. He lost a lot of weight and became weak. For months we kept asking him, "What's wrong? What's going on with you?" We didn't know what was happening.
I was 14 years old when my father was first diagnosed with cancer. He had renal cell carcinoma, which is kidney cancer. It was devastating news to my entire family. I'm the seventh child of 13 kids, and my youngest brother was only 2 years old at the time.
Fortunately, the cancer was only in his kidney and hadn't spread to his pancreas or his liver. He had a successful surgery. Then, eight months later, it was determined the cancer had come back. This time, it was in his lung.
When that kind of cancer metastasizes, it's essentially a death sentence. The worst part was my dad, the strongest man I know, thought he was a goner.
As a sophomore, I was trying to navigate my way through high school. During that time, I just shut down.
When it was determined the cancer was in his lung and he only had a few months to live, my uncle, Kevin, and a close family friend, Rob Griffin, persuaded him to go on a "spiritual cleansing." The three traveled together to Medjugorje, a mountainous town in Bosnia-Herzegovina that's believed to be a holy site.
When my dad came home, he had an appointment to scan his lung. They determined the cancer had completely disappeared. That was almost 15 years ago. He's had a clean bill of health ever since.
Everyone came back a changed person, my father especially. We believe the power of prayer restored and strengthened his faith and that's what healed him. It was a transformative experience for him and for our family. What we were given was such a blessing, a true miracle.
We're a close family and, after witnessing my dad go through the ups and downs of dealing with cancer, and seeing how he was healed, it's strengthened our faith, too. This experience is what makes the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative so much more meaningful to me.
Players are creatures of habit. We're superstitious and don't want to change our routine. The lavender ties and lavender stick tape, it seems like a small gesture, but it's not easy for a lot of guys to veer away from the usual. It's amazing to see so many players step up and support this great cause in even the smallest way.
When the puck drops, it seems like the most important thing in the world. But when it comes to people fighting cancer, nothing compares. I think, overall, players realize that and want to show support as much as we can.
I know I do.
To learn more or to make a donation, visit www.HockeyFightsCancer.com.