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How Bryan Murray helped me face my fears

After learning his colon cancer had reached Stage 4 and spread to his liver and lungs, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray embarked on a campaign to raise awareness for colonoscopies. Fear of the unknown is a problem here, but it turns out there's really nothing to it at all.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

I woke up Wednesday morning on a stretcher in the recovery room at the hospital and the first thing that came to my mind was, “They’d better do this soon because these drugs are really starting to wear off.”

It was right around then the nurse came by and asked me whether I remembered speaking to the doctor. “Yeah, he came to talk to me while I was getting the anesthetic,” I said.

“You don’t remember talking to him after the procedure?” she said.

“What do you mean after? It hasn’t already been done, has it?” I asked.

“I think I’d know whether or not he did the procedure,” she said. “I was right here.”

Wow, so that’s why I’m was farting so much, I thought.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of the pain, misery, hardship and trauma one has to endure to undergo a colonoscopy these days. It was such an ordeal that your trusty correspondent had absolutely no recollection of it happening. There was zero pain, unless you qualify taking a needle to administer the IV a harrowing experience.

I got a colonoscopy because Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray told me to. Well, he didn’t tell me directly. He did so last November in an interview with Michael Farber of TSN, saying that a simple colonoscopy that he put off and avoided because, well, he’s a guy, would have detected his colon cancer long before it reached Stage 4 and would have saved his life. Shortly after, the GM meetings were in Toronto and Murray, stoic and dignified, delivered the message in person during a media scrum after the meetings. There was something about seeing Murray in front of me, 40 pounds lighter because of the chemotherapy treatments, that told me I needed to face my fears and do this.

Now, I’m a full two decades younger than Murray, but I’ve reached that over-50 potential danger zone. I have no history of colon cancer in my family, I keep myself in relatively good shape with regular exercise and decent eating habits (most of the time) and I like to think I live the kind of life that will keep me free from bad karma. But Bryan Murray said before his illness, he was never sick a day in his life and there were no discernible symptoms of the disease leading up to the Stage 4 discovery.

And if a lethal form of colon cancer can hit a man as fundamentally decent and good as Bryan Murray, then you know it doesn’t play favorites.

So, I decided then to get it done, but it still took a couple of months for me to make the appointment. And most of that was out of fear of the unknown. But I’m here to tell you a colonoscopy is absolutely nothing to fear. Nothing. On the scale of medical ordeals, it’s right up there with having your blood pressure checked. I’ve experienced hangovers, stomach aches and toe stubs that were infinitely more painful and longer-lasting than a colonoscopy.

In fact, the worst part of the whole process takes place the day before. That’s because you can’t eat anything at all and have to drink a number of concoctions that, well, have you beating a path to the toilet for much of the day. But even that isn’t as bad as you’d think. In my case, I still managed to be behind the bench for my son’s hockey game that night and only had to excuse myself from my coaching duties once during the game.

When the doctor did come around to speak with me, he told me everything looked perfect and I had nothing to worry about. He then told me I should come back and have the whole thing done again in five years. And that was it. Setting aside two days every five years for something this important is a pretty good tradeoff, I figure. They told me not to drive, operate heavy machinery or make any important decisions for the rest of the day. So the most important decision I made was to sleep on my couch all afternoon. What an ordeal.

The woman in the next bed wasn’t quite as lucky, but fortunate nonetheless. “We found a couple of polyps,” the doctor told her as I was leaving. “And we’ll take care of those and you’ll be fine.” I thought to myself that woman is probably pretty glad at this moment she decided to have a colonoscopy. Her decision to do that might end up saving her life.

After it was all done, I sent Bryan Murray a text message telling him that because of his urging, I had just had a colonoscopy done and that I directly benefited from him spreading the message. “Good for you,” he replied. “Hope all is good. Regards, Bryan.”

Bryan Murray ranked No. 51 on THN’s list of People of Power and Influence solely because he has a chance to leave a lasting legacy by spreading the colonoscopy message. If you’re over 50 and you think you should get one, do it. If you’re over 50 and you don’t think you need to do it or you’re too afraid, get it done anyway.

Murray told Mike Brophy for our THN story that he thinks Curtis Lazar is going to be an NHL star. He hopes he’ll be around when that happens, but acknowledges that he probably won’t. That will be a shame for all of us in the hockey world. But Bryan Murray can take solace in the fact that his message reached a lot of people. And there is at least one person who will always be grateful to that messenger.



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