December 04, 2014

Paul Henderson Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You

With all the recent deaths in the hockey world recently, some good news about Paul Henderson this week.

Henderson, who of course scored the famous game winning goal at the 1972 Summit Series, was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia back in 2009. He wasn't given a great prognosis, and things looked especially dire two years back. Turning down chemotherapy in exchange for a clinical trial with intense exercise and diet changes, Henderson still has the cancer these days, but he's greatly improved, and doing remarkably well.

"As Henderson pointed out, "nobody gets a wrinkle-free life."

Henderson's came in the form of CLL, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. He said no to chemotherapy after his diagnosis, instead trying to battle it through diet and exercise.

"I knew my body. My body has never done well with drugs. The only option I had was chemotherapy, and I thought that would probably kill me anyway. And your quality of life goes, it attacks everything else," he said. "So I spent all kinds of money on supplements, and vitamins and doing this, doing that, working out with trainers. We were hoping to beat it from the inside out. We spent two years desperately trying to find an alternative. But it just kept going."

The clinical drug trial hasn't been easy. The beginning had him travel to the U.S. every two weeks. Then it was once a month, and now he goes every three months. Doctors draw 17 vials of blood each time, for 63 different tests.

"When I first went down there, there were only 10 (tests) that were normal. Now, there's only eight that are not normal," he said. "My red and white cells are normal, my platelets are back. We were hoping it would get rid of it entirely, but it hasn't done that. I still have cancer. There is still cancer in my system. But it's holding it at bay.

"So hopefully we can hold it at bay until we can find a cure. But my quality of life is. . . , well, just look at me. . . 27 months ago, I was going one way or another. And we all knew it."

As for advice Henderson would offer others who are ill, or otherwise challenged:

"I tell them, 'Don't give up. Take the initiative and be pro-active. Get yourself in shape.' And everybody's body is different and so what works for one person may not work for another, so you've got to be responsible and pro-active," he said.

"And don't waste a day worrying. We only have today anyways, and you might as well live it to the best of your ability. I've always been an encourager. I enjoy encouraging people to just go for the roses. Learned a lot of life lessons, especially in '72. Life is tough, and never give up. And I find even in the worst times, if you look around you can always find people 10 times worse off than you are. And so it puts it in perspective."

Henderson also tells of his interactions with Jean Beliveau and Pat Quinn, and tells us he hasn't been to a NHL game in years but he is at his grandson's games every week. It's a great article to read.

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