Cancer scare for Blake

Leafs winger Jason Blake has been diagnosed with a form of cancer. (Sun Media/Alex Urosevic)

Leafs winger Jason Blake has been diagnosed with a form of cancer. (Sun Media/Alex Urosevic)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

It may have been Thanksgiving but, for the Maple Leafs, it felt more like Friday the 13th.

Before the Leafs took to the ice for their Turkey day practice yesterday, Jason Blake stood in front of his teammates in the privacy of their Air Canada Centre dressing room and dropped a bombshell.

"I have a type of blood cancer known as chronic myelogenous leukemia," he told them.

Their jaws collectively dropped.

Don't worry, he reassured, pointing out that his prognosis "was outstanding."

Just another chapter in what is quickly turning out to be an endless assembly line of adversity for general manager John Ferguson and his team.

Since the middle of the summer, Ferguson has seen his father, former NHLer John Ferguson Sr., die; his mother unable to attend the funeral in order undergo serious surgery; his second-line centre, Kyle Wellwood, require a second groin surgery in less than nine months; and Mark Bell, the forward he picked up along with Vesa Toskala in an off-season deal with the San Jose Sharks, slapped with a 15-game suspension from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for an alcohol-related incident in California a year ago.

Team physicians first became aware of Blake's condition upon receiving the results of blood work conducted during team medicals last month. Subsequent testing confirmed Blake had CML, causing team physician Dr. Noah Forman to deliver Blake the news on Friday.

"The prognosis, and certainly the expectations of my physician, myself and my family, is that I will live a long, full and normal life," Blake said yesterday.

Blake has been told that the condition has been discovered early enough to allow him to continue playing hockey.

"I think his prognosis is outstanding," Dr. Forman said. "It's a credit to Jason that he is so dedicated and committed to his heath. And he appreciates that we would never let him play if there were any danger."

In order to treat the ailment, Blake, 34, will take a pill called Gleevec every day. According to Dr. Brian Goldman, an emergency physician at Mount Sinai Hospital and a CBC medical columnist, the medication could have side effects.

"The most frequently reported ones are swelling, nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, muscular pain, diarrhoea and rashes," Dr. Goldman said. "Swelling can be around the face, lower limbs and can be treated with water pills. There also have been reports of fluid on the lungs, heart failure and kidney failure.

"Assuming his blood counts are normal, his spleen isn't enlarged and that the side effects are manageable, there is a good chance he can continue playing. But keep in mind I do not know the specifics of the situation."

Blake, 34, was signed to a four-year, $20-million US, free-agent deal during the off-season.


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