TORONTO – Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray did not want to share the fight he is waging against Stage 4 colon cancer.
Yet he knew he had to share it to help others.
In one of his first appearances since the advanced stage of his disease became public knowledge, Murray spoke in-depth Tuesday about his battle, which he revealed Friday during an interview with Michael Farber of TSN.
Murray, 71, said he initially wanted to keep his battle as private as possible, but he soon realized he had a platform that could be beneficial to getting the word out about preventative cancer screenings and decided that opportunity trumped a desire for privacy.
He said in the TV interview Friday that undergoing screening tests could have caught the cancer earlier. It is a mistake he does not want to see others make.
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"I didn't want to do any public announcement or anything like that, but when I talked to TSN and Michael Farber and I had the opportunity to sell the idea, if that's the right word, that colonoscopies to all of us are important and I didn't do that," Murray said after leaving the general managers meeting at the NHL office. "I thought the message could be and should be loud enough that it might affect some people and save some people. I'm getting the impression that that was the case and that's why I did it."
In fact, the response has beyond what even Murray expected.
"I've had quite a number of people," he said. "I've had some former players call me that played for me years ago that hadn't had any kind of medical attention to that area. A nurse told me [Monday] night that four or five people at one of the clinics in Ottawa [came] in and said because of the interview they're kind of smart enough now to step up and get themselves examined. I hope and feel that it's the right message and a good message and it's worthwhile."
So many have reached out to Murray, offering support or relaying that they have made appointments for screening procedures, the Senators GM has not been able to respond to each note as quickly as he would like.
Murray, who undergoes 48 hours of chemotherapy every two weeks, has tried to continue to perform all the duties he has in the past, but he has had to make some adjustments.
"The days I have chemo, I start again tomorrow, so I won't be able to go in tomorrow," said Murray, who delayed his chemo to attend the GM meetings. "But after that I go in, I do what I can do. I rely on my assistants quite a bit to do a lot of the travelling and scouting more than maybe in the past. But beyond that, I'm fine."
Though delaying chemotherapy and travelling to Toronto were not ideal, Murray did not want to miss the meetings. Not only is there a healthy exchange of ideas about how to make the game better, but there is a sense of fellowship that can be empowering.
"It's always good to come to meetings and be involved and see what's happening in the world of our game," Murray said. "I hope to continue in that for a long time."
The other GMs were genuinely happy to see Murray with them Tuesday. They said he was as active and as opinionated as always.
"Bryan was terrific today, his participation today was no different than it's ever been," New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said. "What Bryan is doing is exemplifying the character he has."
For Murray, there is simply no other option. He doesn't want to retire. Walking away from the game is not for him. He still has more to do. If along the way he can spread the word about the importance of screening tests that is an added bonus for him.
He says he can be strong now, not only for himself and his family, but for others fighting battles similar to him.
"I've been very fortunate in my life to be involved [in hockey] as long as I have been," Murray said. "I go to the hospital, I see young people, young mothers and young children and if I can't be strong and brave, how can they be? I think that that's also a message that I am what I am, it is the way it is right now and there's no sense in hiding it. I'll just continue to be that. I'm not pretending anything.
"You can't hide from things. Nobody wants it -- I don't want this. I've never been sick in my life until I got this. I don't want to be that way, I don't want to put on a face that I don't have it. It is who I am and I'm going to try to fight it as long as I can. That's going to be a long time."