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Lindblom enjoys the happiest of birthdays

Forward checks in with Flyers radio after arriving in Toronto bubble

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

The Philadelphia Flyers have spent the weekend trying to move on from a 5-0 loss to Montreal in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and getting ready for Game 3 on Sunday. Meanwhile, left winger Oskar Lindblom has taken the next steps toward his eventual return to the ice after achieving remission from Ewing's Sarcoma.

Lindblom has completed the required quarantine period after traveling to Toronto from a trip home to Gävle, Sweden to visit his family and celebrate being cancer free. While overseas, he also took the chance to skate with his old SHL team, Brynäs IF.

On Saturday, which was also Lindblom's 24th birthday, he worked out in the gym at Hotel X in Toronto. On Sunday, he will skate with the Flyers. 

Lindblom took some time on Saturday to speak with Jason Myrtetus as a guest on the Flyers Broadcast Network's "Flyers Fix" podcast. He updated his status and talked a little bit about his emotions during his cancer ordeal and remission diagnosis.

"I'm in Toronto right now and having a good time, so I can't complain at all," Lindblom said. "It feels to me like I'm back on track to just start working out and start skating again. But just, like, to be around the guys again, it just makes me get so much more energy. I feel like I'm living my normal life again. I'm very happy right now."

Lindblom contrasted his feelings of rejuvenation ever since symbolically ringing the bell at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center on July 2 following his final treatment with the shock and numbness he initially felt when he received the news last December that doctors had discovered a rare form of cancer in his ribcage.  

"The first day when I got the call from the doctor, it's tough to describe, really. I just remember that feeling of emptiness, like nothing going on in my head. I couldn't think of anything else in my life and, like, why am I going through this? But after a couple days, I felt like, yeah, I need to stay positive in this and I'm going to get through this if I do things right. I'm going to get the help I need from the docs, so I felt pretty positive after that week. I felt like I have to get through the day and I've got to be strong, I have people around me that have helped me and pushed me forward, too," Lindblom said.

Prior to the cancer diagnosis, Lindblom had felt a relatively minor but persistent discomfort in his ribcage. He assumed it was incurred during a game, and hadn't thought much of it. Finally, when it didn't heal on its own, Lindblom's girlfriend, Alma Lindqvist, insisted that he get it checked out by a doctor.

Her advice proved to be life-saving for Oskar. The tumor, which is generally a pediatric form of cancer and extremely rare in adults, was discovered in an early stage while the odds of successful treatment were still strong.

According to an article in Sports Illustrated, Lindblom underwent a course of chemotherapy along with rib resection surgery' an operation in which portions of rib were removed and then strengthened with mesh and kevlar. He responded very well to the treatments to the point where no cancerous cells were detectable even under the most powerful of microscopes. 

Throughout the process, Lindblom stayed in contact with his Flyers teammates (including a couple of surprise visits to the Wells Fargo Center). Their support, along with the unwavering outpouring of love and caring he received from Alma, his parents, brothers and family, Flyers fans, others throughout the entire hockey world, families touched by cancer who reached out to him, and the professionalism and expertise of his medical care providers helped keep his spirits up and helped him stay strong through his treatment course.

"I mean, especially to start there, when it looks tougher to think through it; that I had cancer and all that. To see all the people around me getting together and supporting me, it gave me so much more energy and positiveness to go for it. And I felt like I'm gonna get through this and I'm gonna have all these people behind me helping me through," Lindblom said.

On the day that Lindblom finished his final treatment, rang the bell and left the hospital with Alma by his side, he felt a different wave of emotions wash over him. Even now, he struggles to find the exact words -- in English or in Swedish -- to convey what he felt.

"Something special, like, I didn't know what to expect, really. And I see all the nurses standing there and they applaud me. I had chills in my body," he recalled.

Roughly eight months after being informed that he had Ewing's Sarcoma, Lindblom is in "the Bubble" with Toronto with his Flyers teammates. The Masterton Trophy finalist wants, quite simply, just to be a professional hockey player again. He wants to be back on the ice and the locker room with his team, experiencing the banter, the fun and the rollercoaster of exhilaration and constant physical and emotional challenge that draws people to the sport. 

At the same time, Lindblom knows that his return to game action cannot be rushed. He will need to continue to rebuild his strength and conditioning back to game-ready standards. No specific timetable can be put on that, whether by team trainers or by the player himself.

"I don't want to stress about anything. I haven't set a date right now when I want to play. So it's gonna take [going] day by day and see how my body's going to respond to the workouts and on-ice sessions. Of course, I want to play but I'm not ready. I'm not going to put myself in a situation where I'm not going to help the team or where I put myself in danger," Lindblom said.

As with every cancer survivor, the experience has changed Lindblom in some ways while simultaneously reaffirming his self-identity and increasing his appreciation for things in daily life that may have previously been taken for granted. First and foremost, he appreciates his restored good health.

"You only get to live your life once. Anything can happen. I was in good shape, I felt good and I still got cancer. It can happen to anybody. So I think, like, just enjoy life and try to have fun, that's what I've been trying to do. Even if I was positive and all that before [cancer], but now I feel like I don't have to be negative about anything in life. Just take it as it comes, and enjoy life," Lindblom said.

Oskar Lindblom's 24th birthday was a happy one and a healthy one. He's grateful just to have that day, and the next to come. 

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