Olczyk: I Couldn't Have Done This Alone

Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer last August. Then he endured "six months of hell"

After Hours with Amy Lawrence
June 08, 2018 - 5:45 am

USA Today Images

On Aug. 4, 2017, at 7:07 p.m., Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” the NBC hockey and horse-racing analyst said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “One day last July, I couldn’t go to the bathroom, and the next thing you know, I’m having a six-hour surgery removing 14 inches of my colon and a tumor the size of my fist. Obviously my life, my family’s life, came to a screeching halt.”

Initially, Olczyk, 51, didn’t know how to process his diagnosis.

“I personally felt like I let my friends down, I let my family down, I let my job down – not only at NBC for hockey and sports racing – but also doing the games in Chicago on local television,” he said. “I wanted to crawl under a rock and deal with it myself, but when you’re in the public eye, you have a responsibility. I think once I got over that feeling of, ‘Okay, I’m going to let people know what’s going on with me, I’m sick, I’m going to deal with this, and I’m going to try to help one person to deal with or stay away from this horrible disease,’ I think that really kept me going.”

So did his wife, Diana.

“My wife, she was the rock,” Olczyk said. “I’ve been married to my wife for 30 years coming up on Aug. 6 this summer. She never showed any weakness. She was there every step of the way, and I’m sure she wondered at times what was going to happen to me. I really found out how important the caretakers are for people that are ill and battling, and she was there every step of the way and kept me up.

“There were times I wanted to bail because of the side effects,” Olczyk continued, “and she just grabbed me one time and said, ‘Hey, fight for me, fight for our kids, and fight for the people that love you.’ When you have those words coming from your better half, it sets you straight. Like I said, all the people in the hockey world, the horse-racing community, were so great. I couldn’t have done it by myself. I know that. I’m so thankful.”

Olczyk has been cancer-free since March.

“I feel very, very lucky,” he said. “The people in the hockey world were just absolutely through the roof. The texts, the calls, the emails, the notes, the mail, the telegrams – yes, we still get telegrams in this country – it meant a lot. I couldn’t have done it myself.”

Olczyk’s experience has given him a newfound purpose.

“My goal now and my mission now is to tell people my story, share my story, and make sure that people are going in to get their checkups and let people know it’s okay to raise your hand when you’re not feeling well,’ he said. “Sometimes we think something is going to go away or it’s okay, but you got to step up and you got to go see a physician or a doctor just to make sure that you’re okay. For me, they told me if I would have a colonoscopy when I was 45, then I would have been lucky enough to stay away from six months of hell of taking chemotherapy. 

“I feel very lucky, very thankful, and I’m praying for all of those people out there that are in a battle regardless of what they’re fighting,” Olczyk continued. “I want them to keep their head up and live day-to-day and believe and hopefully they’ll be on the right side and lucky enough like I have been over the course of the last couple of months when I found out on March 14 at 5:04 p.m. that I was cancer-free.”

Olczyk is happy to be alive and to be able to watch a thrilling Stanley Cup Final. Game 5 is Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

“It’s been a heck of a ride,” he said. “We’re only four games in, and yeah, the Capitals are 3-1, but you think about where Washington has been and not able to get the job done over the last handful of years when expectations were through the roof, and for Vegas being in their first season in the National Hockey League – if they’re not the sports team of the year, let alone the decade, there needs to be an investigation. What they’ve been able to accomplish and get to at this point of a hockey season has just been absolutely amazing. It’s been great for the game. Both cities have been off-the-charts.”