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Senators GM Murray battling cancer through work

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators general manager and president of hockey operations Bryan Murray can be seen on an almost daily basis working the hallways, offices and stands at the Canadian Tire Centre, consulting with his staff, talking to his players and dealing with the media.

Sixteen months after the 72-year-old was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer which had spread to his liver and lungs, Murray is holding his own in his battle and he said showing up for work has been a big weapon for him.

"I've just had scans and I've been told everything is fairly stable," Murray said. "It's not growing, it's not shrinking, it's pretty much where it was. The chemo plus the other stuff I'm doing seems to have, at least for now, some control over the growth."

The Senators host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday in their Hockey Fights Cancer Night game (7:30 p.m., ET; TVA Sports, SN1).

"I keep saying I'm going to get another year out of this old body and I hope that continues," Murray said. "It is a disease, they tell me, the type I have is not going to go away. If you can keep it stable for a period of time, you get some years out of it. I don't know, I don't even pretend to know, nor maybe do I want to know what kind of longevity I have. You do what you can to fight it and you keep active. I think my mental state has been good because I'm involved with my job, the team and being around young people a lot of the time. I think those are all positives."

Along with the chemotherapy he receives every couple of weeks, Murray has been having treatments at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre. Murray said he has also been undergoing naturopathic treatments with mistletoe and mushroom extract.

"There's lots going on," he said. "Three injections every couple of days of blood thinners and another drug to help the growth of white blood cells to help offset the chemo effects.

"Chemo is the key, but doing other stuff has helped with the side effects and it appears to be working."

Murray said staying on the job has helped by "allowing yourself not to worry about yourself."

"So I come to the building and I talk to players and I'm involved and I've got thoughts in my head all the time about what we can do to be better. You're interacting with people, the players, the coaches, the staff.

"I think it's a big, big plus in what's happening. I've talked to my wife, Geri, quite often about [how] it's nice to have time off, it'd be nice to have time to travel a little bit, but I think being involved and having an emotional attachment is very important."

Murray's involvement with the Senators goes both ways. He draws positives from it and the players are inspired by his work ethic and attitude given what he faces.

"It's impressive and it really is an inspiration," Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. "You can't even imagine what he's going through, what his family is going through. For him to be here as often as he is, being so involved in our team, so involved in our successes, it's an inspiration to all of us.

"It puts your life and your problems into perspective. If he can battle through cancer and stick to his job, there's no excuse for me or you to wake up in the morning and say, 'I'm feeling tired. I'm not going to put in 100 percent effort today.'"

For now, Murray's plan is to continue as the Senators general manager until the end of the season. He has two more years on his contract after that in a consulting or advisory role.

Depending on his health at that time and in consultation with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Murray said his intention now is to continue working in some capacity.

"We'll keep talking, but I don't know that I have to shut the door completely," he said. "Maybe my workload won't be quite the same going forward. If Eugene and the people here who are involved with the Senators need a guy around who can maybe help in some areas and not be there every single day, I could be enticed into doing that. That's something I'd look at as the year goes on."

In the meantime, Murray's decision to go public with his battle and encourage people to get colonoscopies has potentially saved lives.

After hearing Murray's story, St. Louis Blues associate coach Brad Shaw went for a colonoscopy and wound up having a golf ball sized growth removed.

"I was 50 and hadn't had (a colonoscopy) and you feel like you're in good shape," Shaw said. "There were no indications. I was shocked. I was expecting a clean bill of health, away you go and see you in 10 years."

Shaw is now on what he calls the yearly plan, going for a colonoscopy every 12 months to monitor his situation.

"It's scary," he said. "What Bryan has gone through, you can see what kind of battler he is. We expressed how thankful we are that Bryan had gone public and tried to get that awareness level up. There's no way you would know, no way. In that way, it's a little sinister. [Having a colonoscopy] is a pretty simple way to make sure that you're good."

Murray found a way to turn his situation into a positive for others.

"It's hard at times to go public. It's hard to talk about," he said. "My kids in particular, who kept reading 'terminal cancer,' didn't really like that. The reward is the message hopefully helped a lot of people. If you can give anything back, that's a nice touch."

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