IGGY!!!” The player’s nearly panicked shout could be heard over the screaming crowd. It was to his teammate with the puck. Jerome Iginla deftly passed that little black disk to the front of the net, where it was quickly deposited across the red line, into the back of the goal.
“Sidney Crosby… the ‘Golden Goal!!!!'” We can all still see it in our minds. The mouth guard thrown high in the air; the stick and gloves followed. We can still hear Chris Cuthbert’s usual high voice, belting out his now historical call. Dad and I jumping from our chairs, shouting and cheering together like we had never done before. High-fives, big hugs, and extended toasts to Canadian Pride were made. Then it was bedtime, when I fell asleep surprisingly quickly. “Sidney Crosby…the Golden Goal” are the last five words I heard before my life changed.
I was staying overnight with Dad and Linda, to watch that Olympic gold medal hockey game. During the entire time, I was constantly texting and calling Deantha, as we had only re-connected a mere six days prior. She was visiting her parents in Newfoundland at the time. We knew we were going to be together. One way or another, we just were. And so we said our good nights, and we would talk the next morning.
Then my cell phone rang at 8:30am the next morning. It was from an unknown number which meant it was probably one of my doctors wanting a quick follow-up appointment. Sure enough it was Dr. Sue Robinson’s office. She had been my hematology doctor for over 20 years and we had become good friends over the years. I had an annoying lymph node removed from under my chin in mid-January of 2010. It was hard, round, and about the size of a medium marble. Still, I assumed it was the usual “no problem” message. But something was different this time. Elaine, her secretary, seemed “off” as she asked me if I could get in there as soon as possible. I told her yes, and packed up to go back to my place after the quick results from the appointment.
As I checked in, I was rushed into a “procedure room” and had all the regular pre-meeting vitals and administrative ceremonies performed. I, as always trying to joke around with her nurse. However, I wasn’t getting the usual banter back. Then Dr. Sue came in and sat down with a thin file on her lap. That was weird in and of itself, as my normal “hemo-file” can’t be carried by one person. She looked at me and said, “Darin, the results of your biopsy are back, and they are positive. You have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma…cancer.
I remember hearing the words repeat over in my head, but at no point was I “scared”. I was more stunned, dazed, and kept saying “Really??” out loud, because the unthinkable had finally happened: That son of a bitch finally caught up to me. She told me they needed to find out what stage the disease was in, so she had to perform a bone marrow biopsy immediately. Those are incredibly unpleasant procedures. So much so, that over the years they’ve performed “unscheduled ” biopsies on me. Unscheduled because they knew I’d be calling in sick if I caught a whiff of that test in the air. I told her I needed some time to make a few calls, and she understood.
The first call was to Dad to briefly explain what I was told, and what was about to happen, and I was going to need a drive home, so he was on his way back in. The second call was to Mom to inform her of what news I had.
The third call went to Deantha. We had an extensive chat and she was so strong, even though I know she was about to fall apart. After the calls, Dr. Sue came in and took out a piece of my hip bone about the length and width of a golf tee. Yes, it freaking hurts a lot. Six weeks later, I got a call that the results were in. Dr. Sue and I sat down, and she just put it out there as clearly as anyone possibly could: “Darin, your cancer is Stage 4. It is throughout your body and in your bone marrow. There is no cure, and no real hope for a true remission. Tears starting to form in her eyes and ran down her cheek as she ended with, “This is going to kill you.”
Suddenly, just as I thought I was about to start a solid new life, I took a solid donkey kick to the neck that knocked me down to the ground. It was going to take a lot of personal strength, and the unending moral support from a team of family and friends.
Keep in mind, I had doubters that I would be able to get through. Surprisingly, one of them was Dr. Sue. My first thought was, “OK, so what are we going to do about this?” I asked her and she said that chemotherapy was usually recommended at this point, but she said it would do more harm than good. She said it might kill me faster than the cancer. I asked what the chances were that the chemo might help the situation. She said there was a small chance. So I said, “When do I start? I have a new wife, a baby on the way, and too much to live for to just NOT TRY. Plug me in.” Seemed pretty straight forward to me.
After eight months, and a change in provinces, I endured thirty-six blasts of three types of poison, which included two surprise “bonus rounds” that I was rather upset about. A fact I had to explain that to the kind Saint John Regional Police Officer who pulled me over for going a zillion over the posted limit down the worst road in the city away from the hospital. Fortunately (in a way), he had gone through the same thing. He told me to slow down, keep my head up, get home to my girls and make damn sure everyone in your life knows how much they mean to you on a daily basis. Well said Officer, well said.
So here I sit, four years later, in another hospital bed, on another extended vay-stay-tion. Like Sochi knew four years ago that they had the Olympics coming, we always know there is the chance this could happen. Like the Olympic organizers, I have the best team of experts in every area I could possibly need: from medical, physical, moral, and emotional. I know nothing can possibly beat me, I won’t allow it. THEY won’t allow it. Like the Olympics I’ve had random threats to my welfare through the years; all of them unfounded, and not followed through on. Similar to the Olympics, I just had a very recent scare that makes everyone wonder whether I’m going to be able to pull this one off without a hitch.
We all sat watching those opening ceremonies wondering when. When was the horror going to begin? When would the carnage start, and a body count replaces medal count.
It would seem the “fate of tragedy” has failed once again to realize the people it is dealing with. When it comes to bringing down an object or entity, that when supplied with the best ways and means of full survival, it will never destroy the work done by entirely good people. We now see the full glory of good in the world in these Sochi games. The so-called “Ring of Steel” is up. After a minor “snowflake malfunction” that the media had to point out relentlessly, everything is working as planned. These Winter Games are on, the medals are being counted, and everyone’s hard work is shining like our favorite mineral. We all await for another moment we can, as collective Canadians have a moment to say, “Hey we won another medal in snowboard, or curling, or biathlon”. No matter how crazy the sport or situation might be, everything works better when you have the best.
Now, as I make my way back to the top of the podium through the love, strength, and damned hard work done by my loving family, good friends, and exceptional medical teams, I leave you with this:
In a while now,
I will feel better;
I’ll face the weather
In a while now,
I’ll erase the irony,
And buy back each
word of my eulogy.
To all these uninvited
tragedies: “Let’s step outside”…
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