Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

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The hockey season has finally ended, the parade staged for the Capitals this week in D.C. provided the exclamation point and horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown has been captured by Justify.

But NBC pucks-and-ponies guru Eddie Olczyk still has an agenda after emerging from a battle with Stage III colon cancer.

“My goal and mission now is to help rid us of this horrible disease, but also to make people aware of my story, without being overbearing, and to let them know, ‘Hey, this is what I went through,’” Olczyk insisted last week during a visit with the DVE Morning Show.

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

He ultimately emerged from the “six months of hell” that followed –– 48-hour treatments every other week for six months –– with a clean bill of health, thankfully, and with a perspective and an experience Olczyk is determined to share.

“I want my story out there because I want to try to keep people away from having to go through what I did,” he said. “It was a battle.”

One the former U.S. Olympian and Stanley Cup champion initially feared he might not win.

“Everybody has side effects when they go through chemotherapy or radiation,” Olczyk explained. “For me, it was you can’t control your bathroom issues, vomiting, nose bleeds, severe headaches, neuropathy. I got to treatment two or three and I’m like, ‘How in the hell am I going to get to Feb. 21 when it’s the second week of September?’ There were times, I’m not embarrassed to say this, when I was ready to pack it in. How can I live like this? How do people live like this?

“My wife [Diana] just grabbed me one day by the short hairs and just looked at me right in the eyes and said, ‘Fight for me, fight for our kids and fight for all the people that love you.’”

That and “an emotional cry,” Olczyk said, put things in perspective.

He’s convinced he got through it all thanks in no small part to such invaluable support.

“It’s perception, it’s psychological, how is this going to affect the people around me?” Olczyk said. “My message to people out there is, the caretakers and your families, let them take care of you, because that’s what family is.

“I felt like I had a family of millions because of all the hockey people and horse racing people and the fans and our broadcast family and people in the media.”

No gesture in such situations isn’t worth making in an effort to ease someone’s pain.

“There’s nothing worse than to avoid that person or not wanting to bother them,” Olczyk said. “Trust me, I wanted to be bothered. It’s hard to explain but the best way to say it is it means a lot when people reach out regardless of how short or how long it may be.

“I’ve talked to many, many people who are battling this disease, I’m with ya. It’s a pat on the back, a hug, a text, a phone message. You’re not alone, trust me, you’re not alone.”

Prevention, in the form of proactive examination and early diagnosis, can also make all the difference in the world.

“They told me if I would have had a colonoscopy when I was 45, that would have kept me from having to go through six months of hell,” Olczyk, 51, maintained. “They just changed the age to 45.

“I want people out there to raise their hand if they’re not feeling well. It’s OK to raise your hand and say, ‘You know what? Geez, I’m not feeling well. I need to go see a doctor.’ Don’t try to go on the internet and try to become a doctor and self-diagnose. Get in there and see your doctor.

“I’m hoping my story will resonate with people and they’ll get checked out when they need to be.”

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section