Hockey great keeps Hodgkin’s lymphoma in check

Written by Community Health Network on 2/21/2014 10:30:00 AM

For his performance during the 1992-1993 season with the Pittsburg Penguins, back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships and gold medal win in the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake, Mario Lemieux earned the name “Super Mario”. But what is truly super about this hockey legend is that he is a cancer survivor.

In 1993 Mario was having the season of his career and was close to establishing a new National Hockey League (NHL) scoring record. Then, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, now known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma

A cancer of the blood, Hodgkin’s lymphoma develops in the lymph system, part of the body’s immune system. There are two kinds of lymphomas: non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s. Both types of lymphoma have similar symptoms and characteristics, which include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

Mario had discovered a swollen lymph node on the back of his neck that was determined to be cancerous. After its removal he underwent radiation therapy, one of the procedures used to treat this cancer. But, on the morning of March 2, 1993, Mario finished his last radiation treatment, took a plane to Philadelphia, and scored a goal and an assist against the Philadelphia Flyers. Talk about keeping cancer in check!

Mario is now 20 years cancer-free and his personal experience with cancer led him to create his own foundation.

“My battle with Hodgkin’s disease in 1993 made me realize how fragile life can be,” he said.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation raises money to help reach the ultimate goal: a cure for cancer. Mario continues to devote time to raising funds for this cancer foundation, establishing the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers in Pittsburgh that opened its doors last year. In 2013, Pittsburgh Magazine covered the news of its celebrated citizen.

“Finding out you have cancer,” Lemieux said, then trailed off. “Fear is a big part of it. I reflect back on the times when I was getting treatments every day. It’s not an easy thing, when you have cancer, to get up in the morning knowing that you’re facing a radiation treatment. So we wanted this space (Blood Cancer Center) to be as comfortable as possible.”

Community also believes in the prevention, early detection and treatment of blood cancer. Partnering with MD Anderson Cancer Network™, medical oncologists like Dr. Sumeet Bhatia can provide Hoosiers with top-notch cancer care.

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Source: Mario Lemieux Foundation

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