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

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Eddie Olczyk, with NBC’s Mike Emrick, earlier than a Capitals playoff sport (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Publish)

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

“It used to be Northwestern Sanatorium,” 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 medical institution, 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 stated.

He in the end picked up, and his worst fears had been showed: colon most cancers, they stated. Level three. “And identical to that, the entirety more or less stopped,” he stated. “However on the similar time, issues additionally began going in point of fact rapid: How used to be I going to inform my children? What does this imply? Am I going to are living?”

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 Enviornment earlier than a hockey apply in the course of one in all his busiest and favourite weeks of the 12 months. Lower than a 12 months after a prognosis that now and then felt like a demise sentence, he’ll quilt two Jap Convention finals video games between the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning in Washington earlier than 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 selections extremely expected. (He did, in any case, hit the trifecta together with his Kentucky Derby selections two weeks in the past, the second one time in 4 years he has nailed the race’s best 3 finishers.) However getting up to now used to be an extended highway.

Docs had 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 stated, “ ‘Glance, if you wish to take your possibilities and gamble and now not take the chemo–,’ ” Olczyk recalled. “I stated, ‘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. Actually, again in August, he slightly heard a phrase the physician stated. He used to be nonetheless improving from surgical treatment and couldn’t even start chemotherapy till Sept. 11. He faced the concern the similar means he used to be ready to grind out a 16-year enjoying profession, adopted through a a success run broadcasting within the sales space and a stint training at the bench: He instantly began plotting out objectives.

Olczyk went to an OfficeMax and acquired an outsized calendar. He put large black Xs on each and every different Monday — chemotherapy appointments — after which start marking off vital dates and milestones he may just look ahead to: 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 through the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Triple Crown. He wasn’t sure, regardless that, how a lot he’d be capable to paintings earlier than then.

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Olczyk works on his pregame notes earlier than Sport three of the Capitals-Lightning collection. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Publish)

Chemotherapy concerned two hours on the medical institution each and every 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 and every minute the pump is going and also you pay attention that sound — it appears like a hairdryer occurring for a split-second,” Olczyk stated. “Whilst you’re sitting on your own and also you’re feeling terrible and that’s all you pay attention time and again, you’re pondering, ‘How on the planet am I going to get thru this?’ ”

The primary few therapies had 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 hands and toes had been hit with neuropathy, and he on occasion misplaced chunks of hair. Later he’d increase a hernia associated with his preliminary surgical treatment. And because of the medication, he won 40 kilos and used to be all at once larger than he’d ever been in his existence.

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 frequently publicizes video games.

“After the second one or 3rd remedy, I take into account telling my spouse: ‘I’m carried out. I will be able to’t do that,’ ” he stated. “And he or she simply more or less checked out me and grabbed me through the fast hairs and stated, ‘Struggle for me, struggle for our youngsters, and struggle for the folk that love you.’ ”

He saved consulting the calendar and learned there used to be a length overdue in 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. Whilst you step right into a rink, there’s particular scent, a way, a really feel. Eddie wanted that normalcy,” stated Sam Flood, NBC’s govt manufacturer. “His circle of relatives had taken him to rinks during his existence; he has such a lot of recollections. So it used to be a reminder of ways particular existence is. I believe that helped encourage him to paintings more difficult, undergo thru no matter ache the chemo and the therapies had been sending his means.”

Olczyk sooner or later made it to 14 video games this season, a few 3rd of his same old workload, every one a welcome break out.

“I simply needed to get the hell out of the home. Simply take into consideration one thing instead of the medication and the entirety else,” he stated. “I don’t imply to be disrespectful through announcing this, but it surely used to be a really perfect distraction. It took me away and helped cross the time. It used to be lovely soothing, you recognize?”

In any case, on Feb. 21 at nine:04 a.m. — in fact, he recalls the precise time — Olczyk used to be unhooked for the final 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, pals and co-workers. The playoffs had 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 folks he meets now not to attend on a colonoscopy. He’ll want to go through checkups each and every 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 a little bit of scheduling serendipity allowed him to paintings hockey in D.C. and horse racing in Baltimore this week. Greater than the rest, he’s glad for the normalcy.

“Glance, most cancers goes to be with me the remainder of my existence. I do know that,” he stated. “However I simply really feel like now I’m comfy, in a great spot and I’m round people who I wish to be round and appreciative for the chance.”

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