Kesler’s father, Mike, was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer, a very rare form of cancer in the small intestines during last season’s playoff run.
“I was in the hospital because I was getting x-rayed when I broke my hand and I got the call [from my mom],” said Kesler. “It really takes you back and it really makes you think about the time you had with him. I just wanted to get home.”
Stories like Ryan’s were front and center during Saturday night’s match-up between Vancouver and Edmonton, as the Canucks and the BC Cancer Agency teamed up to raise cancer awareness. The two organizations hosted an interactive booth allowing fans to learn about screening programs that provide early detection and lifestyle choices that may prevent cancer altogether.
Dr. Simon Sutcliffe, BC Cancer Agency president, view these two elements as critical to winning the fight against the disease.
“Cancer touches so many of us,” said Sutcliffe. “With one in three British Columbians developing cancer in their lifetime, early detection and prevention must play an integral role in our cancer control strategy.”
The joint venture between the Canucks and the BCCA was instituted in support of the Hockey Fights Cancer program. Founded by the NHL and the NHLPA in 1998, Hockey Fights Cancer marks its 10th anniversary this season and has, to date, raised more than $7 million for local cancer research organizations.
But despite being part of a league with such a proactive approach to cancer awareness, Kesler was still shocked to find the disease could strike someone so close to him. “To hear the word cancer, it really doesn’t hit home until it affects somebody you know,” said Kesler. “You really have no control of it. It happens to good people. My dad didn’t ask for it and it just kind of happened.”
Fortunately for Kesler and his family, Mike’s cancer turned out to be treatable. “It was a type of cancer where basically you just go into surgery and they cut all the mass out and get all the cancer out,” said Ryan.
Knowing the cancer was treatable, however, didn’t make the process any less nerve-wracking.
“It scares you. You don’t know if you’ll ever see him again,” said Kesler. But since the surgery to combat his cancer, Mike has done more than survive. He’s thrived.
“He was a heavier-set guy, and now he’s into eating healthy,” said Kesler. “He walks everyday and he’s being more active. I think it helps him to have a new outlook on life. He used to be a really high-strung guy and now he’s a bit more relaxed. He looks at the big picture now.”
Touched by his family’s close-call with cancer, Ryan has taken a proactive approach against the disease.
“I think it’s really important [to raise awareness and] I’m trying to start off a golf charity back home for my dad,” said Kesler. “It’s a small world. Cancer affects everybody.”