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Hockey Fights Cancer

Hockey Fights Cancer important to Jets assistant coach, wife

Jamie, Tina Kompon focused on increasing awareness two-plus years after her battle began

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Tina Kompon is an optimist and a pragmatist, no small allies in the two years since she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The wife of Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Jamie Kompon insists she's blessed and lucky, having gone through the discovery, the diagnosis, the chemotherapy, the radiation treatment, the double mastectomy, the reconstruction surgery and the recovery from her cancer battle.

"It wasn't hard. The chemo wasn't hard. Losing your hair is not that hard. It's just hair; it's not the end of the world," the 52-year-old Edmonton native said. "I got to get up every morning and watch the sun rise and have blue skies. As an Alberta girl, that was important for me. I was happy and wanted to let people know that.


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"It's bad, yes, breast cancer, don't get me wrong. But it's good to talk to people about it. You don't have to hide it. Don't sweat the small stuff. Let it go. That was kind of the way we went into this. You can't change it. What do we do to fix it?"

Tina and Jamie decided to share their story this November, hoping to add some weight to the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer awareness month.

The Jets will have Hockey Fights Cancer when they play the Minnesota Wild at Bell MTS Place on Monday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-N, NHL.TV).

Having received her three-month all-clear in late summer and hoping to get the six-month all-clear this week, increasing awareness is now a strong focus for Tina.

"I can deal with it, I have a good support system with my husband and friends," she said. "I'm proactive and I don't hide things. But the important thing is to make sure you get checked. I knew because of my grandma and, later, other family members who died from breast cancer. [Two of my three] sisters are just starting to get checked.

"And it's important for me to be able to be there for somebody, anybody, like people were for me. If somebody wants to talk about it, the answer is yes, absolutely. I can tell you what I went through, about things that may or may not happen. I don't have much problem talking about it. I think it's important for everybody to know."

Video: EXCLUSIVE | Jamie and Tina Kompon's Cancer StoryVideo courtesy of Jamie and Tina Kompon/JetsTV

Tina's fight with cancer began shortly after the start of the 2015-16 season, Jamie's second as general manager and coach of Portland of the Western Hockey League.

She had just moved to Portland and got their house and daily life set up, including appointments with a new family doctor.

"I woke up one morning, did a big stretch, and literally felt like something popped," Tina said. "It was like a spasm. I grabbed my left breast and felt the lump right away and knew this was not right. I had already made an appointment with a doctor for four days later, so that was good."

The process then began, including mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies, taking about two weeks before the diagnosis was certain. The ensuing discussion with Jamie had its emotions but was never without focus.

Tina said Jamie's offer to take a leave or resign from his Portland job was a nonstarter.

Together, they agreed he would keep working and she would do better going through treatment close to the home they had kept in Los Angeles and surrounded by a close group of friends in the Palm Desert area.

The support group, including Sue Cannon, Stacy Stevens, Daneen Flesher-Scott, Veronica Pinto, Debbie Crete-Lloyd and Camille Manquen, and visits from Tina's family were crucial to her fight.

And her resolve and clarity rarely wavered, never afraid to let her husband or her friends know if their care and love threatened to become smothering.

"If I need help, I will ask," she recalls saying more than once. "The way it turned out, I was lucky because I really didn't get sick from the chemo. I did lose my hair, did have some side effects, the neuropathy (loss of feeling in the hands, fingers and/or feet), lost my fingernails, stuff like that. I gained a lot of weight, which surprised me, but it was because they gave me a steroid to make you eat."

Her first six sessions of chemotherapy occurred between November 2015 and April 2016. Four more were required because some cancer remained, then radiation treatments followed.

Near the end of her required six-month wait before any reconstruction surgery could begin, a small amount of cancer appeared on her right side, so it was back to another round of chemotherapy, which was successful.

The initial all-clear came this past May, and her reconstruction took place in August.

"You learn what's important to you, and I feel pretty good, comparatively," Tina said. "I have a lot more energy than I had last year. It's gradually all coming back. There are things that have changed, like my eyesight and I'm still having a hard time wearing a high heel.

"But I really feel great. I'm cooking again. I'm back in the gym. I have a bit of 'chemo brain,' which I'm told is pretty common."

Those occasional moments of forgetfulness are something the Kompons laugh about. They are a minor distraction, yet part of the greater strengthening of their relationship, Jamie said.

"I have learned a lot, mostly that I need to listen," the 51-year-old said. "This was hard, and it's because you want to do something. But I learned never to ask what's wrong or how she's feeling when she was sick. I was overprotective in a lot of ways until I learned to just keep quiet until she said something to me.

"She taught me that I sweat a lot of little things. That's me, I'm a detail guy."

Less than a year into Tina's treatment, Jamie was fired by Portland, on April 1, 2016. His resume as an NHL assistant, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 with the Los Angeles Kings and in 2013 with the Chicago Blackhawks, led to his next opportunity with the Jets.

He was hired July 2, 2016, and their gratitude has increased by the day, Tina and Jamie said.

Tina cited one example from the extensive support, a visit from Patti Chipman, wife of Mark Chipman, executive chairman of the board of True North Sports + Entertainment, the company that owns the Jets.

"When I had my pneumonia last spring, Patti came over and brought me soup and snacks and sweets and cookies and sat with me," Tina said. "I'm not quite used to that. It was a such a personal thing. I would say it's the first time I've truly felt it's a family. Everybody has been wonderful."

Before Tina's cancer battle, Jamie leaned toward the private approach, keeping personal matters to themselves.

But seeing his wife vulnerable was difficult, and the battle has changed him to see the importance of a wider support network and to try to increase awareness.

"I know some other people going through this right now, and they ask me what to do," he said. "I just tell them to be there. You don't have say anything as long as you're there.

"Somebody told me this: You're like a tree, just be there. Give her shade when she needs it, give her sunlight when she needs it."

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