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Hockey Fights Cancer

Wife of Capitals analyst goes public with cancer fight

Linda Laughlin determined to help raise awareness for rare disease

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- After 37 years of marriage, Linda Laughlin is used to the spotlight being on her husband, Craig, the longtime Washington Capitals television analyst and a former Capitals forward.

In fact, she usually prefers it that way.

But she's looking forward to changing that dynamic for one night when she drops the puck for the ceremonial face-off before the Capitals play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena during Hockey Fights Cancer night on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, NBCSWA, FS-O, NHL.TV).

Although Craig will escort her onto the ice, this will be Linda's moment to be recognized for her courageous, ongoing fight with uterine serous carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer.

 

[RELATED: Help Hockey Fight Cancer#CapsFightCancer]

 

By sharing her story, Linda, 60, hopes to raise awareness about types of cancer that don't get as much attention, research or funding, and the foundation she and Craig are establishing to try to change that.

"For this, I think it's worth it if I can get awareness out and make people understand." Linda said. "According to some of the information out there, as many as 50 percent of the cancers that are diagnosed are what they call rare and underfunded and under-researched, which is crazy. When you think that there's 1.7 million people a year diagnosed, half of them -- half of them -- fall into categories of cancers where you don't know anything."

When listening to Linda, an engineer by trade, and Craig talk, two things are immediately evident. One is that they've done extensive research on her cancer. 

The other is that they've been in this battle together since the moment she was diagnosed in April. In a way, this is another chapter in a love story that began when they met as freshmen at Clarkson University in 1976.

No doubt, it's a chapter they'd prefer to have avoided, but it's also one they said has brought their family, with daughter, Courtney, 30, and son, Kyle, 33, closer together.

"We had a lot of gloom and doom to start because it was sort of a shock to our system," Craig said. "But then we looked at ourselves and said, 'Hey, we're going to beat this. We're going to do whatever we can.'"

Linda said she has about a 75 percent chance of survival because she was diagnosed early. She considers herself fortunate because there are no tests or pre-screenings for uterine serous carcinoma.

Linda initially went to the doctor because of back pain that began in January. Tests determined that the pain was being caused by fibroids (noncancerous growths of the uterus), but also eventually led to her cancer diagnosis.

Treatment began with a hysterectomy in late April. That was followed by six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, which Linda completed Oct. 26.

Next, after about a month break, comes six weeks of daily radiation treatments.

"It's a long process," Linda said.

Craig, who calls Linda his warrior, has been by her side through almost all of it. When the Capitals were playing the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, NBC Sports Washington permitted him to participate in its pre- and postgame coverage for the games in Las Vegas from its studios in Bethesda, Maryland, so he could remain close to Linda.

That the Capitals went on a remarkable run to their first championship while Linda was beginning her cancer fight provided a pleasant distraction and a strange twist. The Capitals have been a huge part of the Laughlins' lives since Craig was traded to Washington by the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 9, 1982.

"So for us to have the Caps go this way, it was unbelievable," Linda said. "It was a little tragic in that I couldn't quite participate. I would've loved to have gone to the parade. I just wasn't up to that. There were a few things like that, but I watched every second on TV."

Chemotherapy sometimes left Linda too weak to walk, but she summoned the energy to travel to NBC Sports Washington's studios for a family photo with the Stanley Cup on June 27. 

"She got up every day hurting, not feeling well, but she got up every day wanting to live her life fully," Craig said.

Linda's determination to turn a negative into a positive provided the impetus for what she and Craig said they'll likely call The Craig and Linda Laughlin Foundation for Cancer. The foundation's mission will be to raise funds for and awareness about underfunded and under-researched cancers and support specific cancer patients in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

During Linda's chemotherapy infusions, she'd notice patients who were alone and wonder how they made it to and from the hospital or how they paid their bills and wanted to help. The Laughlins would also like to use some of the funding toward cold caps, which are gel caps they discovered during their research that are used to cool the scalp to try to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy.

The cold caps are not as common in the United States as in Europe, but Linda estimated they helped her keep about 50 percent of her hair. Craig put the number at 90 percent.

On this topic, they agree to disagree.

"But the hair is still there," Craig said.

As for research, Linda notes that it's so limited on uterine serous carcinoma that there are no trials for it in the United States.

"So when you start lumping all these cancers that are underfunded, under-researched, what they call rare, it's mindboggling that we are still so far away," she said. "My hope is that I can raise awareness for these underfunded cancers, make people understand that half the people have them, and that this could be any of us."

That's why Linda didn't hesitate after Capitals director of community Peter Robinson asked Craig if she'd drop the puck Friday. Because they hadn't told many outside their inner circle about Linda's diagnosis, Craig wasn't sure she'd want to do it.

But Linda views this as a valuable opportunity, even it means stepping outside her comfort zone.

"I don't know if being known for getting cancer is necessarily what I want my legacy in life to be," she said. "But on the other hand, if me being out there in public can actually do something for somebody, even if it's just one person -- and I sure hope we can do more than that -- then I'll tell anybody who's willing to listen, and I'll go in front of anybody who wants to see me. 

"Because, to me, that is so worth it."

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