Sharing ordeal of cancer

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Since being diagnosed with throat cancer in late 2004, Lyle Bauer had never spoken in great detail, publicly, at least, about his battle with the disease.

Until now.

At a luncheon yesterday in support of his Never Alone Foundation, Bauer relived the ordeal, beginning with the moment he heard the words: "You have cancer."

"I almost went into cardiac arrest," the president/CEO of the Blue Bombers said. "I was hyper-ventilating. Things were totally out of control.

"It was as if the whole world just drifted away, and there was nothing in the room except me."

Bauer spent the next week "walking around in a daze."

Finally, he went back to the hospital, where further tests determined the tumour at the base of his tongue was inoperable. Doctors would have to rely on aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.

During his speech, Bauer displayed the mask that protected parts of his face and head, while exposing other areas to the radiation.

"The last few weeks were absolute hell," the burly, former offensive lineman said.

Unable to eat solid foods because of the pain, and dropping some 80 pounds from his 315-pound frame as a result, Bauer attempted to work out during the treatments.

At one point, his good friend Ross Hodgkinson suggested he was "nuts" for getting on a treadmill.

"No, not nuts," was Bauer's reply. "I'm just trying to keep my mind."

By mid-February, 2005, the treatments ended.

Three months later, his first checkup.

"I've never been so worried and scared and nervous," Bauer said.

TUMOUR GONE

The tumour was gone, his doctor told him.

"I was so happy, I could have kissed him."

Then came the six-month checkup. Another after nine months.

Last month, Bauer made it to a year, cancer-free.

"Everything is very, very good," he said, to applause from the sold-out crowd. "Cancer changed my life. The highs are higher. And after going through that, there aren't any lows."

Now 47, Bauer says he's come to grips with his own mortality, too.

"In my life, I'd prepared for absolutely everything. I'd prepared for games, I'd prepared for board meetings ... but the one thing I'd never prepared for is inevitable."

Faith, family and friends are obviously three of the things the new Bauer holds dear.

"The big cars, the fancy jobs, the real estate, that doesn't mean a tinker's damn," he said. "When you think about it, life is memories. Grab it by the throat. Spend time with your friends and families and create those lasting memories."

Finally, lest anyone think he's softened too much, Bauer issued a promise to Bomber fans.

"I don't sweat the little things anymore," he said. "But I'm still ready for the big fights. So if you think I don't have designs on your Blue Bombers hoisting that Grey Cup at Canad Inns Stadium (Nov. 19), you're in the wrong room."


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