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Return to the Rink

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Wendy Pleau (left) meets with a fan who was visited by her husband, General Manager Larry Pleau, during one of the Blues' visits to local children's hospitals several years ago.

  Photo Gallery: Hockey Fights Cancer Weekend Stories: Hockey Fights Cancer
In hockey, success typically doesn’t come without its fair share of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice.

The same can probably be said for life in general. Nobody really knows that better than Wendy Pleau.

In 2006, Wendy, the wife of Blues General Manager Larry Pleau, felt some pain in her back and assumed she had a kidney stone. Doctors instead discovered a tumor and diagnosed her with Burkitt’s, a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over the next several months, Wendy would endure four sequences of chemotherapy, an aggressive form of treatment required for an equally aggressive type of cancer.

“Larry compared it to the (four rounds of the) Stanley Cup playoffs,” Wendy said. “He kept me battling, along with friends, family, alumni, the fans, the team, just everybody. It was just amazing.”

The chemotherapy was a success, and Wendy was presented with a cardboard cutout of the Stanley Cup for emerging victorious in her battle with Burkitt’s.

But her fight wasn’t over.

A scan eight weeks later revealed another tumor, a mid-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and Wendy would endure more chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and several months in the hospital.

Throughout her fight, the Blues raised money through various silent auctions and Hockey Fights Cancer Nights at the games. They also organized blood drives in her honor, even holding one right outside her hospital room window so she could see the support.

“When you’re involved in it like we have been, it’s really special the support you get,” Larry said. “The people, the fans, the media, the players and everybody in the building...we’ve had tremendous support and you don’t get through it without that. That’s what it’s all about.”

And thanks to that support, Wendy is winning her battle. The cancer is in remission and she’s strong enough to go to games and visit with her kids and three grandchildren.

At Saturday’s game, Wendy relaxed in a suite with other cancer survivors while sharing stories of their triumphs. She watched the game for awhile before being whisked away for an intermission interview with John Kelly and Darren Pang. She was met with hugs from fans and Blues staffers along the way, and she posed for pictures with a team photographer before returning to her suite. In a way, she truly was the guest of honor.

Until this season, it had been two years since Wendy attended a Blues game, so it makes sense that Saturday’s Hockey Fights Cancer Night was extra special for Larry and Wendy Pleau.

“It is the best,” Wendy said. “I never used to miss a game. To go through two years without going to one was really, really tough. Being here tonight is wonderful.”

“I was just telling (John Davidson), isn’t it great that the NHL has a special night like this?” Larry said. “It’s so meaningful to have something like this.”

The Blues raised more than $25,000 for cancer awareness and prevention this weekend with their annual Pink at the Rink and Hockey Fights Cancer Night. The team raised money through silent auctions and special merchandise sales, including autographed pink mini-helmets, T-shirts, teddy bears with a Hockey Fights Cancer logo on the chest and more. The proceeds will be donated to organizations such as Komen for the Cure and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Earlier in the week, Brad Boyes, Mike Weaver and Cam Janssen visited the pediatric cancer floor at St. Louis Children’s Hospital to meet with children and bring them toys.

“I personally love doing that, and I know I can speak for a lot of guys on the team who love to just go help those kids out and make them feel good for even just 10 minutes out of the day,” said Janssen. “Whatever it takes, we love doing that, and I’m sure they love us coming in there.

“We wouldn’t be anywhere else but there.”

Added Boyes, “It definitely reminds you (how fortunate you are). There are a couple situations where it was tough and you could tell the kids are in pain. Seeing them in pain like that, but also seeing they don’t want to show it, shows how courageous they are.”

And for the Blues, that’s really what it’s all about: putting smiles on faces and contributing to causes worth supporting.

“With things like this, you know there are other things in life,” Larry said. “There’s a lot more in life than just a hockey game.”

And for Wendy, she’s just thrilled she’s back at the games and able to spend time with her family.

“I wouldn’t be here without Larry,” Wendy said. “There were times when it got really tough, but he’s a tough guy and he doesn’t let you quit.

“But also, the players, the wives, the fans...I really feel this team has a special place in my heart.”

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