Dave Strader wanted to do this earlier this season but cancer has its own schedule. The TV/radio play-by-play man of the Dallas Stars, however, will be returning on Saturday night for the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer last year.
“This will be as good as any treatment I’ve received,” Strader, 61, told me this week as he prepares to return to work for the Stars’ home game on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. “I was waiting for a couple of things to come together – No. 1 that I would feel well enough to work and it would fit into a stretch of games when the team was at home. I don’t think I’m strong enough to travel just yet. Everything worked out well with my last scan.
“My oldest brother said, ‘You want to push the horizon back each day.’ Keep fighting and hope one of those immunotherapy drugs show up. Things happen so quickly in cancer research that I have to find a way to find a cure.”
Make no mistake – Strader is returning to work as he fights for his life.
He has bile duct cancer, and while the chemotherapy and other treatments he has received have been successful, this is an hourly struggle. He is currently hoping to receive good news, perhaps in the next few days, from the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York that a match has been found with genetic testing.
This season was the first time in more than 30 years of broadcasting that Strader had to miss games because of health reasons.
What I wanted to know was easy – what’s this like?
“The thing that was really tough is how quickly your life can change,” he said. “This had been one of the most exciting times of my life in the NHL, and my wife loved it [in Texas]. When I had the test, it said this is all going to change now.”
Strader was not feeling great after Game 6 of the Stars’ second-round playoff series against St. Louis last spring. He visited doctors in his home state of New York, and upon his visits they found something they didn’t like. He had his gall bladder removed, but the bile duct cancer was inoperable. Strader began the dreaded chemo treatments immediately.
While in the hospital his heart stopped. Literally. While he did not require “the paddles” to restart his heart, the scare was severe. Since then he’s tried an array of treatments, some more effective than others.
He’s currently found something that has worked, which is allowing him to return for this five-game homestand that runs through March 2.
“I read a lot about it, and talked to a lot of doctors; a lot of well-meaning people want to give you a miracle cure that doesn’t exist,” he said. “I would say [to people who get cancer] to be sure to ask all the questions. Don’t keep things to yourself and be an advocate for yourself. You also have to be careful – the Internet is a wonderful tool but there is a lot of garbage out there [as far as cancer information]. Be an advocate for yourself and stay positive.”
Strader does not fit the mold of people who get this type of cancer; they are normally in their mid 70s. But this is where he is, and he has maintained a positive perspective despite the bad luck.
And whatever the cliche is about appreciating every day, now that’s not a problem.
“We all think about how much we love our spouse, friends, family or whatever it is about our life we enjoy. I just have a heightened awareness of that since this,” he said. “I’ve been a glass half full person so I don’t know if I lived my life any differently. A lot of the times I just go to treatment and come home and sit in the recliner and watch hockey, but I do have a greater awareness of the things that we take for granted, and I don’t take it for granted.”
The Stars’ season has been one to forget, but the return of Dave Strader to the booth will surely be memorable.