‘It’s been a battle’: Hawerchuk recounts cancer fight

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Dale Hawerchuk appeared on Sportsnet’s “After Hours” this weekend and detailed his battle with stomach cancer.

The Hockey Hall of Famer was diagnosed in August, forcing him to take a leave of absence from his job as head coach of the OHL’s Barrie Colts. On April 13, he finished his last chemotherapy treatment and was able to ring the “Bell of Hope.”

“I went in and did the scope and when I woke up the doctors at the end of the bed said, ‘Sorry, I’ve got bad news. You got cancer.’ You just think you’re in a bad dream,” Hawerchuk told Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk. “You want to wake up but that was the reality. Within a few hours, I was meeting with the surgeon and my surgeon was excellent.”

Hawerchuk told TSN in October he began suffering from acid reflux symptoms in the summer and a CT scan found a stomach tumor. He later underwent a gastrectomy in January to remove his stomach, as well as a tumor and cancerous cells.

“From eight months ago when I was first diagnosed, it really felt like a death sentence but then you learn a lot more about cancer, talk to a lot of people, do a lot of research,” Hawerchuk said. “My surgeon was pretty blunt with me, basically said you’re going to have to go through some serious chemo, we’re going to have to remove your stomach and then more serious chemo. Here I am at the end of it. It’s been a battle, but I feel pretty good.”

A second chance at life and with a new attitude, Hawerchuk is approaching each day as a gift. His appetite has returned and like the after-effects a hockey bag skate, the months of treatment have helped him to feel better again.

“The nurses really wanted me to ring the bell,” Hawerchuk said. “It felt really good walking out of there after ringing the bell and saying, ‘Man, it’s been a long journey, but this was the goal, in the end, to get to this point.'”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.