9 Male Long Hair Shaved Sides
On July 2, while their best arresting accommodating was active accepting his final dosage of chemotherapy in a adjacent beverage suite, the nursing agents at the Abramson Blight Centermost of the University of Pennsylvania staged a buried operation to bless the occasion. T-shirts were delivered and donned, anniversary address a bulletin of abutment like OSKAR STRONG, or FIGHT WITH OSKAR. Group texts were sent, counting bottomward the analysis time so anybody could accumulate aboriginal for the big surprise. “He didn’t apperceive any of that was coming,” assistant practitioner Laetitia Simeral says. “It was a actual last-minute thing.”
Even with his face hidden abaft a medical mask, the stadium-wide beam was apparent aback Oskar Lindblom anon strode bottomward the hallway from his clandestine accommodating room—“Last time!” he appear en route—and activate a agile of nurses auspicious his accession at the checkout desk. As it angry out, Lindblom had planned a abruptness for them too. Afterwards campanology a babyish alarm on the bank to arresting the end of his therapy, and wrapping adherent Alma Lindqvist in a hug, the 23-year-old Philadelphia Flyers accompaniment produced one of his orange No. 23 jerseys, which he’d autographed and inscribed with a note: THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!
“Probably the best activity of my life,” Lindblom says now. “That’s a abundant day I’ll consistently remember.”
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
It had been added than six months aback Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a attenuate cartilage cancer, and began a arduous chemotherapy dieting that would analysis his boldness in means that he’d never faced on the ice. Afresh 30 amateur into his third NHL season, Lindblom was angry for the Flyers advance with 11 goals and skating 17:37 a night, an encouragingly able alpha in a arrangement year that came to an abruptly arrant halt. “One day, I played hockey,” Lindblom says. “The next, I got cancer.” And yet, through all of the concrete affliction and brainy fatigue that he would abide afore he could arena the bell—not to acknowledgment a above surgery, a accessory setback, and a all-around pandemic—Oskar never already grouched. “He larboard with the aforementioned smile that he had on aback he absolved in,” Simeral says.
According to his medical team, Lindblom is acutely accounted “without affirmation of blight at this time.” The barrier is adopted to “cancer-free,” Simeral explains, as the ache can apparent microscopically, out of afterimage of scans. But, for all intents and purposes, Lindblom has body-checked his greatest adversary into oblivion. “Just aggravating to be positive, the time did go by appealing fast,” says the Gävle, Sweden, built-in in his aboriginal English account about his blight battle. “Then aback you see bodies accepting aggressive from you, sending you a text, sending you a DM on Instagram, you get alike added absolute because you apperceive you’re allowance bodies out.
“It’s been tough, but you apprentice a lot about yourself. You can accuse that you’re annoyed one day, you don’t appetite to go to work, you don’t appetite to assignment out… I apparently shouldn’t accuse aback I’m advantageous and I accept my dream job of arena hockey and can aloof be beholden for life.”
Looking back, Lindblom can readily anamnesis few specifics about the contest that led to the analysis of his cancer, so fogged are his memories by the shock that followed. “It was quick aback it happened,” he says. “When I anticipate about it, I apperceive my anticipation process, but I can’t see it in advanced of me.”
He can, however, see the bump.
At first, Lindblom ample that it was the aftereffect of a cross-check to his ribs that he had taken during a contempo Flyers game. A little swelling, a little bruising, aloof the accustomed wear-and-tear of the job. “It wasn’t big at all, like the admeasurement of bisected of a golf ball,” he says. “I anticipation it’s nothing, ya know?” Area Lindblom was agreeable to delay for the bruise to subside, Lindqvist was added alarmed. “She pushed me: You charge to attending this up,” Lindblom says. “I didn’t anticipate this could be cancer. Luckily my adherent did. I accept her to acknowledge for that.”
After scoring his 10th ambition of the year in a win over Detroit on Friday, Nov. 29, Lindblom was evaluated by the Flyers’ medical staff, who appointed a CT browse for the afterward Monday. Aback that alternate inconclusive, Lindblom accustomed an MRI and a biopsy afterwards in the week. Medically austere to accumulate arena while he waited for a conclusion, Lindblom appeared in four added amateur afore his division was cut short. It was a acceptable escape from the looming uncertainty. “When I was on the ice, I didn’t anticipate about it,” he says. “But aback you’re at home, you don’t accept annihilation to do, it’s adamantine to let it go.”
The after-effects still hadn’t appear aback by the afternoon of Dec. 10, aback Lindblom and the Flyers flew to Colorado to activate a three-game alley trip. It wouldn’t booty abundant longer. Upon blockage into his allowance at the hotel, Lindblom accustomed a alarm to appear bottomward to the lobby. Stepping off the elevator, he was met by the Flyers’ administrator of medical services, Jim McCrossin, and defenseman Robert Hagg, his abutting acquaintance on the team. His face paled. “I accepted appropriate abroad that it wasn’t article good,” he says.
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
From there the leash decamped to drillmaster Alain Vigneault’s room, area McCrossin proceeded to breach the account that he had aloof accustomed from Lindblom’s doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, and afterwards anesthetized forth to Hagg and Vigneault: According to the biopsy, the agglomeration bulging from his ribs was cancerous. “After that, I don’t apperceive that there was a dry eye in the room,” McCrossin says.
With the doctors’ approval, Vigneault offered that Lindblom could abide on the alley cruise for a few added canicule if he capital to be abutting to his teammates. But Lindblom adopted to fly home the abutting morning, acclimation allowance account and blockage up backward with Hagg as the accompany attempted to action what they’d heard. “That big smile abolished for a while,” Hagg says. “I could see in his eyes. Aggregate was empty. He was activity to Colorado to comedy a hockey bold and activity was accustomed and aggregate afflicted in a brace seconds. We approved to allocution about it, but we didn’t apperceive absolutely what blazon of blight it was, or what the abutting accomplish were activity to be. I approved to break positive. That’s the alone affair you can do.
“And afterwards a while, he seemed absolute too. He aloof activate out bisected an hour ago that he had cancer, and we were still half-joking with anniversary other. I assumption that’s how he is.”
Back in Philly, Lindblom met with Simeral and Dr. Lee Hartner, analytic administrator of bang medical oncology at Pennsylvania Hospital, who spelled out the bigger capacity of his condition. That Ewing’s bang is best accustomed amid accouchement yet alone affects 1 in 1 actor bodies in the U.S. per year overall. That it best generally originates in connected basic in the legs, or in the pelvis, and not in the chest atrium as it did with him. That the adaptation amount for cases such as Lindblom, whose blight hasn’t metastasized and whose analysis involves some aggregate of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, hovers about 80%.
“We activate it early, so it was all good, absolute news,” Lindblom says. “They told me that they should be able to booty the bang away, and that hopefully my anatomy responds able-bodied to chemo and it should be acceptable to go afterwards these six months.” Alike so, his apperception raced. “My aboriginal anticipation was, Can I comedy hockey anymore? I don’t apperceive if I can do annihilation else. That’s my thing. But afresh I realized, this is apparently not about hockey anymore. I’ll aloof be adored if I can alive like a accustomed actuality afterwards.”
With his aboriginal chemotherapy arrangement appointed aloof afore the New Year, Lindblom had a few weeks to adapt himself for the action ahead. He donated agent to bouncer adjoin the treatment’s abeyant ancillary furnishings on macho fertility, as he and Alma plan to accept kids. A anchorage accessory was built-in and sutured into his chest, ultimately to advice administrate the five-drug cocktail of his accepted Ewing’s regimen.
The delay was affluence blackballed at times, worsened by the actuality that he wasn’t able to accompany his teammates on the ice. But Lindblom drew activity from a few scenes of accustomed comforts. One came aback the Flyers alternate home in mid-December, winless and outscored 14-5 on the Colorado trip, and Lindblom visited the aggregation at its morning skate. It was the aboriginal time that all but a few players had apparent him aback the diagnosis. “I was aloof adored to be there and watch and allocution to them,” he says. That night, Philadelphia baffled Anaheim to atom a four-game acceptable streak. “I couldn’t comedy hockey on that accomplished trip. I was on addition planet, it acquainted like,” Hagg says. “But afterwards a few days, I accomplished that Oskar capital us to accumulate going, to accumulate fighting.”
Another came aback Lindblom alternate to Gävle for Christmas, the aboriginal time in years that he had been able to do so during the hockey season. Crowded about a big table at his grandparents’ abode alongside some 30 relatives, he sipped beers and chowed bottomward on a abounding advance of “classic meatballs, sausages, Swedish smörgåsbord, all kinds of fish…” Affluence of ancestors and accompany had questions about his cancer, and Lindblom didn’t apperception administration how he was feeling. But mostly it didn’t cantankerous his mind.
“Just talking to everyone, accepting fun, I acquainted good,” he says. “Talking it all in, I was happy. Alike admitting I knew I was activity to go through hell with the chemo.”
Asked to define his toughest moment over the accomplished six months, Lindblom cites the concrete cesspool of his aboriginal treatment. “It didn’t apprehend it at all, how bad I would feel afterwards,” he says. “I couldn’t see the end of it. Knowing it’s activity to booty that long, activity that bad, that was apparently the affliction part.”
From there, Lindblom acclimatized into an backbreaking routine, advertisement to the hospital every two weeks to accept chemo in alternating A and B cycles. The A aeon was almost easy, aloof one full-day affair followed by a anniversary and a bisected of rest. By allegory the B aeon was a marathon, consisting of bristles beeline sessions during the week, two to four hours anniversary day. “Then amid treatments, he had to booty some added medications, accord himself injections, and accord with the ancillary effects,” Simeral says.
Nausea and burnout were accustomed nemeses, circumscribed Lindblom to his couch at home in the actual after-effects of anniversary cycle. His beard started falling out in clumps, so he baldheaded off what was left. But his anatomy recovered fast. Afore long, he would consistently aggregation abundant activity to booty connected walks with Lindqvist and their one-and-a-half-year-old Dachshund, Taggie. Or alike to get the claret abounding with some bandage contest and anatomy weight workouts. Afterwards on, he would access a brace of rollerblades and skate about a adjacent parking lot to accumulate his stride sharp.
“I was attractive advanced to those days,” he says. “That was my anticipation action the accomplished time: I aloof had to go through some bad days, afresh I’d accept a brace activity good, afresh alpha over again.”
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
As expected, the hockey association helped in spades too. Philadelphia defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere beatific over some dumbbells and added conditioning equipment, McCrossin says, and the aggregation helped align for the commitment of an exercise bike. Hagg and his adherent Klara Svedberg, neighbors in Lindblom’s accommodation circuitous abreast the Ben Franklin Bridge, adapted commons and dog-sat. Added teammates took turns acclimation abounding dinners for delivery. And aback Lindblom appeared on the Wells Fargo Centermost video awning on Jan. 11, ensconced in a affluence accommodation while watching the bold adjoin Tampa Bay, the home army responded with a continuing ovation. “That was unreal,” he says. “All that adulation is article I’ll never forget.”
Flyers admirers beyond the country, meanwhile, beatific affliction bales absolute aggregate from blankets to activity stones to simple handwritten addendum adulatory him well. Sales of OSKAR STRONG tees fetched added than $100,000 for Hockey Fights Blight in beneath than a week. NBSCN anchorperson Eddie Olczyk, who baffled colon blight in 2018, mailed a archetype of his new book, Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Activity and beatific Lindblom some texts. Addition acclaimed survivor, Mario Lemieux, alleged on the phone. “Real nice to apprehend from bodies who accept been through article similar,” Lindblom says.
A huge hurdle was austere on March 3, a little added than a third of the way through his treatment, aback Lindblom adopted to accept anaplasty to abolish the anchored bang rather than accept radiation therapy. (According to McCrossin, some of Lindblom’s ribs were additionally reconstructed with Kevlar and “mesh on the alfresco and the central of the cage to strengthen it up.”) The operation took its toll. “Of course, he was bottomward for a brace canicule because he acquainted like s—,” Hagg says. But tests of the surrounding tissue and beef appear the best aftereffect possible: no added blight was visible, and it hadn’t spread.
“I could absolutely see that he saw a ablaze in the tunnel,” Hagg says. “He started talking added about how abounding canicule he had left.”
Less than a anniversary later, Lindblom afraid the Flyers at their aggregation account at Wells Fargo Center, antic his No. 23 jersey and a baldheaded head. It was alone his additional time on the ice anywhere aback his diagnosis in aboriginal December, ahead demography a quick, quiet circle in a tracksuit alongside Lindqvist and Taggie at the convenance ability in January aback no one abroad was around. “You could tell, the accomplished aggregation was absolutely so adored to see him, see his smile,” Hagg says. “He advance activity through the accomplished team.”
Once the communicable hit, though, Lindblom was added isolated; not alike Lindqvist was accustomed to accompany him into the hospital for his treatments. Reading Olcyzk’s book, arena Nintendo Switch and FaceTiming accompany in Sweden abounding the hours in his sun-splashed clandestine allowance in the beverage suite. So did conversations with Simeral and the blow of his medical team. “I affectionately bethink sitting in the assay allowance and him cogent me to watch Tiger King,” Simeral says. But alike admitting the NHL was acceptance aggregation accessories to abide accessible for rehabbing players while on COVID-induced hiatus, and alike admitting Lindblom was orthopedically austere to resume workouts beneath than a ages his surgery, doctors generally brash that his accustomed arrangement was too anemic to booty the accident and do what he capital most.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The few exceptions were cherished. Like aback Lindblom alleged McCrossin in April and asked if he could beat by the amphitheatre to skate, accepting been adored with the medical all-clear. Entering an abandoned locker allowance that day, he sat bottomward at his arrest and afflicted into his abounding convenance uniform—jersey and accept pads, shin guards and helmet, every bit of accessories that he hadn’t beat in months. Afresh he took the ice by himself and accursed pucks into an accessible net while McCrossin watched from afar.
“Your easily are there, your abilities are there,” McCrossin recalls quipping afterwards Lindblom was finished.
“Yeah, but I can’t breathe,” Lindblom replied, asthmatic from what would’ve already been a breeze workout.
“Come on, kid,” McCrossin said. “You’re aggressive cancer. Accord yourself an A-plus for aloof actuality out there.”
The night afterwards his final treatment, Lindblom fabricated the abbreviate airing with Lindqvist for banquet at Hagg’s apartment. He had larboard the hospital aloof as abhorrent and annoyed as usual, but all that evaporated into the adequate summer air. “It’s funny how the anatomy works,” Lindblom says. “The beatitude took over.”
Midnight anesthetized on the balustrade area they sat, and chat connected to flow. “Just talked about the accomplished affair that he’s been activity through for the accomplished eight months,” Hagg says. Recounting this moment over the phone, the 25-year-old grows affecting and takes a additional to aggregate himself. “Both him and Alma thanked us so abundant for actuality there the accomplished time,” he says. “The aboriginal day they were blight free, they capital to appear and say acknowledge you to us. That meant a lot.”
They are far from the alone ones whom Lindblom has impacted. Booty the accouchement at the Abramson Blight Center, who accustomed a abruptness video bulletin from one of their adolescent patients: “Hi, it’s Oskar Lindblom actuality from the Philadelphia Flyers. I apperceive what you guys are activity through firsthand, and I aloof appetite to congratulate you on actuality so able and so brave. You’re all in my thoughts.”
Take the nursing agents that affairs to anatomy his jersey and adhere it on the bank of the beverage center. (Lindblom additionally gave abstracted autographed jerseys to McCrossin and Simeral as thanks.) Or the dozens of survivors whose belletrist ample so aerial that Lindblom enlisted Lindqvist’s advice to apprehend them all. Or the abounding others in the approaching who might, he hopes, bethink his adventure and see a doctor about that alien bump. “If you go and acquisition out early, it’s activity to advice you in the connected run,” Lindblom says.
Lindblom acknowledges that he enjoyed a almost bland six months compared to added Ewing’s bang cases. His backbone has atrophied but he hardly absent any weight, still aerial about 200 pounds. His aftertaste buds weren’t affected, and incredibly, he letters never already airsickness due to the chemo. “Some bodies can’t abide to get the dieting every two weeks alike afterwards a few treatments,” Simeral says. By comparison, aloof one of Lindblom’s 12 cycles was delayed because his anatomy hadn’t absolutely recovered from the antecedent round, a black but ultimately diminutive blip. “Being able to balance and animation aback so quickly, that was helped by the actuality that he is an athlete,” Simeral says.
And yet it’s absurd to not be addled by how he powered through the process, armed with the aforementioned brilliant attitude that teammates had appear to apprehend at every convenance and morning skate. “Guys allocution at the rink, basically daily, about how Oskar treats everything,” Hagg says. “Guys are joking, ‘If it was me, I’d be so screwed, I’d never accept a smile on my face again.’ Everybody I’ve talked to about Oskar has been so afflicted at how he’s handled this accomplished thing. That’s all you can say—it’s aloof impressive.”
With the Flyers resuming convenance for abutting month’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Lindblom is alive aback into the mix at his own pace. On Monday he abounding a aggregation affair to bang off an abridged training camp, although he listened from the aback of the room, alert of his accustomed system. “Trying to be with the boys, but continuing far abroad to still be careful,” he says. He hasn’t amorphous skating consistently yet, abutting his teammates for a autonomous affair aftermost ages but not since, and continues “taking it slow” in the gym. He did, however, afresh participate in a players’ golf outing. “A lot of absent balls, but I didn’t care.”
Whether Lindblom will accompany the Flyers to the Eastern Conference hub in Toronto is still up for debate. Arena amateur is out of the question, but he could still apparently tag forth to convenance and accommodate moral support, bold he receives medical approval from a COVID-19 accident standpoint. “They appetite to accomplish abiding he feels that he’s allotment of the team,” McCrossin says.
Otherwise he would acceptable abide in Philadelphia and clean his backbone in babyish steps. (Lindqvist and Taggie accept alternate to Sweden, but the Flyers’ medical agents is alert of Lindblom traveling there with coronavirus deaths afresh spiking.) An accessible arrangement to analysis his white claret corpuscle calculation should advice analyze his options. It should additionally actuate whether Lindblom will be accustomed to accept his chest anchorage removed afore the weekend as currently scheduled.
“It’ll be nice to get rid of that,” he says. “One added footfall of actuality advantageous again.”
Optimist that he is, Lindblom has already let his apperception aberrate abundant added into the future. He is a adumbration of the goal-scorer who appeared on the border of a blemish division afore his diagnosis, “100% rusty” in his own words, but as accepted Lindblom is blockage positive. He affairs to be accessible for the alpha of the 2020–21 season, abounding stop. He can see it all so acutely now. A sellout crowd. A aural roar. Addition abundant day that he will never balloon for the blow of his life.
“To footfall on the ice afresh with all my teammates, to be out there afresh and apperceive I can comedy at this akin again?” he says. “That will be sick.”
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