Eddie Olczyk loving hockey, Derby grind after cancer fight

There were dates and goals that one by one Eddie Olczyk crossed off: The Breeders’ Cup, his daughter’s December graduation from Alabama, returning to the Blackhawks booth and finally Feb. 21.

That was the final day of Olczyk’s chemotherapy after seven months of treatment — doled out in 12 48-hour sessions — after he was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer in August.

“I set some goals for myself in order to help me get through. ‘How am I going to get through this?’ The first couple of treatments it was brutal,” Olczyk said. “The side effects that I had: nausea, nosebleeds, myopathy, bathroom issues. It was rough. My wife [Diana] talked me off the ledge a couple of times and pretty much said, ‘Hey, fight for me, fight for the kids and the people that love you.’

“When it’s with you, you feel like you reek of it, it totally consumes and controls your life. You feel weak, you feel less, you feel like you’re a burden on everybody, like you let people down. Your mind just takes over and you don’t know what’s going to happen. There was a lot of unknowns. I was scared.”

The Rangers’ Stanley Cup-winning forward is on the other side after he was declared cancer free on March 14 — at 5:07 p.m. to be exact. He has eased back into his jobs in the Blackhawks booth and NBC as a hockey and horse-racing analyst. These are the dates Olczyk was hoping would not be consumed with a second round of chemotherapy, just his job with the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing and the Kentucky Derby a week away.

“It’s the best medicine I’ve had in a long time, seeing some familiar faces and normal surroundings,” Olczyk said. “I feel great, much better than I did when I stopped my chemo treatments nine weeks ago.

“I feel good and so relieved and thankful for the support that I got. … There’s normalcy and it just feels great to feel back. I am finally starting to get back into the condition of the grind. It just feels good.”

Olczyk was calling Game 1 of the Capitals-Penguins series Thursday night in Washington before flying to Las Vegas for Saturday night’s Game 2 of the Knights-Sharks series. After a couple of days to recharge at home, Olczyk will head to Louisville to continue his preparation for next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Olczyk will host a two-hour handicapping show Thursday and also be a part of NBC Sports Network’s Kentucky Oaks coverage next Friday.

“This time of year the most eyes are on both sports. … It’s a great time of year and exciting to get to do two things that I love,” said Olczyk, who has spoken openly about the disease and has made it his mission to educate others about it.

“I am looking forward to getting my feet wet and getting back to some normalcy in my life considering everything that’s gone with my life the past seven months.”

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