Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Anaheim Ducks

Ducks Fan Harrington Continues His Cancer Fight

by Jenelyn Russo / Special to AnaheimDucks.com

When the Ducks' season came to an abrupt end last April by way of a Game 7 playoff loss to the Nashville Predators, Kevin Harrington's fight was just beginning.

The longtime Ducks fan had received a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year and was preparing to face an intense 12 weeks of aggressive chemotherapy treatment in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.

The 28-year-old Harrington is no stranger to hardships. The former multi-sport standout athlete and Minnesota Twins draft pick has had to navigate the unexpected before. After a motocross accident cut his baseball career short, Harrington turned to his lifelong love for hockey and the Ducks to help get his life back on track.

With the cancer treatment looming, the Ventura resident drew strength and motivation from watching the Ducks complete a seemingly improbable "worst to first" run during the 2015-16 season, securing the club's fourth consecutive Pacific Division Championship.

And as the story of Harrington's health challenges reached fellow Ducks fans (read that original story here), he received an outpouring of support that fueled his determination that much more.

"There was so much positivity from Ducks fans going into my treatment, which I needed," says Harrington. "I needed that mentally. It was all very nerve-wracking. There was a lot of fear."


"It was really a draining process on everyone around me," says Harrington. "I wanted to fight for my family and for those people who were in the trenches with me."

 

His treatment plan included five straight days of three different types of chemotherapy drugs given simultaneously, followed by one-day treatments for two additional weeks, a cycle he completed four consecutive times.

"Now to look back, it seems like a blur," says Harrington. "Just dealing with the grind of it all. It was hard to get motivated every day."

Leaving his playoff beard in place to start, Harrington was shuttled back and forth by family members to the Ventura County Hematology Oncology Specialists, where he spent most of his time during the three-month period. A few weeks into his treatment, Harrington was forced to shave both his beard and his head.

Then other side effects began to set in.

Harrington experienced a continual cycle of everything from body aches and headaches to sleeplessness and nausea. Each week, he received a shot of Neupogen, a medication that forces the body to increase production of white blood cells. It brought on pain "that was worse than any sports injury" he had ever endured.

Two different times, Harrington was taken to the ER for exhaustion and dehydration. Additionally, the chemotherapy caused severe nerve damage, known as neuropathy, leaving Harrington with incurable numbness in his feet and hands. And by the end of the 12 weeks, he had lost nearly 40 pounds.

"It was tough, as an athlete, to be in that state," says Harrington of the effects of the chemotherapy. "It was hard to do the simple things, like just get up and walk around."


"She was right by my side the whole time," Harrington says of Rikke, who became his fiancée a few days ago. "I could absolutely count on her. Every day, she's been a champ."

 

As drastic as the physical toll was on his body, Harrington felt the mental battle was just as unyielding. "It was an absolute roller coaster the entire time," he says. "My mind was all over the place, constantly up and down. There were times I was terrified. The whole thing goes straight to your soul."

In spite of his difficult road, Harrington fought hard and remained strong with the support of his family, who walked with him every step of the way.

"It was really a draining process on everyone around me," says Harrington. "I wanted to fight for my family and for those people who were in the trenches with me."

Much of Harrington's will to fight throughout that time came from those he met during his treatment. Sharing words of encouragement with a community of fellow cancer fighters gave Harrington strength and helped him keep it all in perspective.

"It's not a fun club to be a part of, but once you're in, you're in," Harrington says. "I met a lot of wonderful people who are fighting just like me. I saw right away that there's definitely a greater purpose for me going through this."

Eager for some physical activity after his treatment concluded, Harrington was able to regain some of his strength and make his way back to one of his places of refuge - the rink - where he plays in adult recreational leagues in both roller and ice hockey. Being able to skate alongside his hockey teammates has provided a much-needed emotional and physical boost.

"Getting dressed and putting the equipment on was tough. I was out of breath tying my skates," says Harrington. "But I had to do something. I'm an active person. It's amazing to get back out there with the guys again."

Coming out of the treatment, Harrington's initial tests indicated that the chemotherapy was effective, and scans showed no detectable cancer. But more recent tests and scans have revealed a few possible "hot spots" on his organs as well as elevated levels of tumor markers in his blood stream. He has been referred to City of Hope where his case is being evaluated for next steps.

Harrington admits this most recent news is disheartening, but he's focusing on living in the moment and finding the best in what each new day offers.

"I'm really feeling a sense of calm," says Harrington. "I'm trying to embrace life each day. I'm not sweating the small stuff any more. I'm appreciative of the little things now. Things are looking up."

For Harrington, that approach includes being intentional about his choices and not letting life pass him by. Along with getting back to playing hockey, Harrington is also back at work at his job in a local sporting goods store. And he took the next step with his girlfriend of almost five years, Rikke, by proposing to her last weekend. Harrington admits he could not have made it through the last several months without her unwavering support. "She was right by my side the whole time," he says. "I could absolutely count on her. Every day, she's been a champ."


"I'm really feeling a sense of calm," says Harrington. "I'm trying to embrace life each day. I'm not sweating the small stuff any more. I'm appreciative of the little things now. Things are looking up."

 

Forever the sports fan, welcoming back Ducks hockey for a new season provides a significant respite from the storms in Harrington's life.

"It gets me excited, and it's something I look forward to," says Harrington, who will be at Honda Center on Friday night with his family to watch the Ducks take on the Blue Jackets . "It's a good distraction. I love to watch the games and be on Twitter [where he is @KHarrington10] with all the other Ducks fans."

And Harrington is completely unfazed by the Ducks' slow start. "We're in for another uphill battle. But that's like life," says Harrington. "I tie it to my own situation. It's just another challenge to take on. No matter how big the hill, you've got to take that first step."

Harrington realizes there is plenty of his battle still to fight, and he remains resolute in his approach - day by day, shift by shift. He feels that having cancer has changed him, and he sees that as a good thing. But it has far from defeated him.

"It's a different lens to look through," Harrington says. "At times, it's been difficult. But at other times, it's beautiful."

 

If you would like to help with Kevin Harrington's cancer fight, visit his GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/9xzcfjvt.

View More