Saint John Sea Dogs rally behind teammate diagnosed with cancer
A second year member of the Saint John Sea Dogs has been diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood and lymph nodes, but despite the diagnosis his team is rallying behind him.
The team announced today that 18-year-old Oliver Felixson, a native of Helsinki, Finland, was diagnosed by staff at the Saint John Regional Hospital. He will be out of the lineup indefinitely while seeking treatment.
Sea Dogs officials say the organization is shocked by the news.
“Oliver is our teammate, he’s our friend, he’s a member of our family and we’re all in this together,” said team president Trevor Georgie at a sombre news conference.
“We’re all with him as he meets this challenge.”
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the same cancer NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with in 1993. Medical officials say it is a treatable and potentially curable disease.
Dr. Elizabeth Zed of Horizon Health said while this is a serious diagnosis “we expect that in the majority of patients a long-term remission and cure.”
She added “over 80 per cent of patients with a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be cured with appropriate treatment”
Felixson’s parents have arrived from Finland. He said in a statement: “This news came as a complete shock to me and to my family.”
“I know that I am only at the beginning of this journey, but I am confident we have the right plans in place for my treatment,” he added.
But despite being unsure, Felixson still received encouragement from his coach.
“We teased him that one thing that Finns are famous for when they come over here to play is the amount of grit that they bring,” said Sea Dogs coach Danny Flynn. “So he’s gotta show some great championship grit and fight his way through this.”
Details on the extent of Felixson’s illness, or what his course of treatment will be, have not been released. Zed said treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually involves chemotherapy and in other instances a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
His teammates, including captain Spencer Smallman, say they’re finding the diagnosis difficult to comprehend.
“You expect injuries like a sprained ankle or, you know, a broken bone, but cancer isn’t something you’re really prepared for,” Smallman said.
There is one person however on the team who has an idea of what Felixon is going through – equipment manager David Kelly who has battled thyroid cancer.
“There’s going to be some long days, some tough days, but don’t ever think you’re alone because there’s a whole army of people beside you,” Kelly said.
It’s not known yet if Felixson will remain in Canada for treatment or return home to Finland.
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