Jason Blake, who played while being treated for a form of leukemia, said he believes center Brian Boyle will be able to do the same thing for the New Jersey Devils.
"I didn't miss any (regular-season) games, but it was tough," Blake told Elliott Friedman of Sportsnet in remarks published Thursday. "It's basically chemotherapy in a pill form. I came to camp [at] 182 pounds, because that's what I played at. I lost 10 pounds in the first seven, eight days. It was a big adjustment, trying to manage weight. Every time I ate, I couldn't stay out of the bathroom, because your stomach is upset and you're nauseous. …
"As time went on, I cramped up quite a bit and started drinking tonic water during periods. I still drink it today."
The Devils on Tuesday revealed that Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, known as CML, a type of cancer of the bone marrow that is largely treatable with medication. Blake made public his diagnosis of the same disease on Oct. 8, 2007.
"He carries himself with such character," Blake said of Boyle. "I think he'll be just fine. I really do."
Blake played in 82 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs and received the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey after the 2007-08 season. The forward played four more NHL seasons before retiring in 2012.
Like Boyle, Blake's disease was discovered from a blood test taken as part of training camp.
"For us as players, it's a reminder how fortunate we are that we get to do this," Blake said. "Because we do these blood tests, they catch it early. Often, men don't start it until north of 45. I was 34. Brian is 32. When I got diagnosed, as much as it [stunk] … they caught it early. The support system will be excellent. … The Devils and the NHL will take care of him."
Dr. Michael Farber said Boyle is in the early stages of the disease and a treatment plan is being developed, which will determine when the forward will be able to play.
"When that happens, I don't know, but my mindset is on Oct. 7 (the season opener against the Colorado Avalanche)," Boyle said Tuesday. "I don't like missing games. If I [play poorly] one night, it's because I [played poorly], not because of any other reason."
Boyle, 32, signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Devils on July 1. He had 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 75 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Maple Leafs last season (Toronto acquired Boyle (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) in a trade with Tampa Bay on Feb. 27).
"Yes, I was dealt a [bad] hand. But how you play that hand decides what kind of a person you are moving forward," said Blake, who still takes a treatment pill every day. "As much as it [stinks], accept the fact. Deal with it. There is no other option."