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Hockey Fights Cancer

Boyle, Anderson wives bond over Hockey Fights Cancer mission

Current, former ambassador for initiative driven to help others, raise money

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- There was no torch. There was no physical passing of anything. But as Nicholle Anderson and Lauren Boyle chatted, as they talked through bits of their stories, their journeys, the years of medications and tests and scans and scares, it was evident that they shared something.

Anderson's face sat propped on a conference table, beamed in from Florida via FaceTime. Boyle sat at that table, her 17-month-old daughter, Bella, running around underfoot. The outward similarities were numerous: They were both hockey wives, of Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson and New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle; both blonde; both mothers.

Both touched by cancer.

Nicholle, the NHL's ambassador for Hockey Fights Cancer last November, is cancer-free after being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare form of throat cancer, in October 2016. Lauren, the NHL's ambassador for Hockey Fights Cancer this November, watched and supported her husband after he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in September 2017, and cheered when he found out Oct. 22 that he is in remission.

Video: Nicholle Anderson on her cancer fight, work with NHL

One day after that news, Lauren found out her grandmother had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. 

"Once you go through something like this, you like to give back and just to help other people," Nicholle said. "You hear the word cancer, you don't know what it all entails, and to be able to give back and help people and guide them [is important]. I already know everything I need to do, so to help people and teach them different ways to go is fulfilling to me. I'm giving back. Because I was so blind through the whole cancer world."

No longer. 

It's knowledge that she possesses, that Lauren possesses, that they'd rather not have. Because that would have meant they hadn't gone through what they did, all the pain and prayer and worry. But they're hoping that through their experiences, they can help those throughout the hockey world, whether by sharing their experiences, commiserating or raising money. 

To that end, Lauren is already off and running. She's planning a jewelry sale for the NHL's hockey wives, including a party for the wives of players from the three New York-area teams (the Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders). Thirty percent of all sales of the fine and costume jewelry will go to Hockey Fights Cancer, the initiative founded by the NHL and NHL Players' Association in 1998 to unite the hockey community in support of cancer patients and their families (November is Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month). Lauren, like many, was horrified at the cost of some of Brian's treatments, and though he has coverage under the NHL's insurance plan, she knows that others are not so lucky.

"I just see how important it is, the money and the financials to go into the time and research, because that's what it takes," Boyle said. "Until there's more research, they're not going to get any more advances. Like with Brian's medicine, because it's so new it's changed so much in the last seven years. His leukemia used to be a kiss of death 18 years ago."

Brian needs to take his medication for five years and have his levels stay at zero before he can go back to a life without cancer pills and constant concern. 

Video: VAN@NJD: Boyle pots PPG on Hockey Fights Cancer night

It's those advances that Lauren wants to continue. She wants to help, in that way and others. 

"I just want to be what people need me to be, whatever that is," she said. "So if it's to talk, faith, love, family, whatever that might be."

"Keeping it real, basically," Nicholle interjected.

"Just keeping it real," Lauren said. "Just: Here I am, what do you need?"

And though Lauren is taking over Nicholle's role from last season, Nicholle is not going anywhere. This advocacy has suited her. She has found herself in it and can't separate herself from it at this point. Nor does she want that.

"For me it was a very spiritual move, like meeting new people, it helped me process and get through different grieving parts in my life," said Nicholle, who is working on an initiative to get purple lipsticks sold at the Senators' Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night on Nov. 15 and possibly around the NHL in the future. 

"I think it's an awesome opportunity for [Lauren], but will I ever stop helping people in Hockey Fights Cancer? Probably not, because it touched me so much that anytime they call me to do something, I'm like, 'Sure, I'll do it'."

Lauren said, "It's in your blood now."

It's part of who she is. It's part of who they both are. 

"I think it's a purpose for me," Nicholle said. 

"I feel that way too," Lauren said. "I feel like if I can be a voice right now, especially even with the faith part, because that is what got us through. … That's what every day was built upon."

Anderson looked thoughtful. 

"Maybe God wanted you to pair up with me," she said. 

"Exactly," Lauren said.

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