Bryan Murray (left) and Paul MacLean (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray said he decided to go public with the news that his cancer has reached Stage 4 so that other men who might have been putting off colonoscopies will make an appointment and possibly avoid a similar fate.
Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray would have preferred to keep his personal life to himself. His inclination was to not go out and tell the world that his colon cancer had reached Stage 4 and that it had spread to his lungs and liver. Given his druthers, he would have rather not shared to the world that he is dying.
But then he saw a chance to leave a positive legacy. Murray finds himself in his current situation because he put off getting a simple colonoscopy. And if going public could convince people to not make the same mistake, he saw a lot of value in it. So last week, he told the world via Michael Farber and TSN the news.
And he said the message is getting through. He is getting calls from all kinds of people in his life who have booked colonoscopies.
“I’ve had some former players call me who played for me years ago who hadn’t had any kind of medical attention to that area,” Murray said. “I had a nurse tell me (Monday) night that four or five people in the clinics in Ottawa have gone in because of the interview, that they’re smart enough now to step up and get themselves examined. I hope and feel if that’s the right message and the good message, then it’s worthwhile.”
Murray has already lost 40 pounds, a side effect of the chemotherapy treatments he undergoes every two weeks. His hair is thinner and his voice is softer, but the fighting spirit remains. He put off his chemotherapy for one day to attend the GM meetings in Toronto and still goes into the office to work when he can. He leaves a lot of work to his assistants Randy Lee and Pierre Dorion, but wants to continue working as long as he’s able.
“This isn’t the end of anything,” said Murray, who turns 72 in December. “I’m old enough to retire. My wife has told me that the past four or five years and she’s right. But to be involved and active is important and for me to go home and sit on the couch doesn’t make sense to me so I’m not going to do that. I see a lot of young guys coming up in our organization and I’d like to be around as they play better and better and grow up.”
Murray has been involved in hockey for almost five decades and has been a fixture in the NHL for more than 30 years. He takes solace in the many good wishes he’s received from his colleagues and cherishes every day. It’s remarkable how people who receive news such as Murray show so much resilience and courage, but Murray said he is only being himself.
“We live our lives,” Murray said. “I’m very fortunate in my life to be involved (in hockey) as much as I have. I go to the hospital and I see young people – young mothers and young children – and if I can’t be strong and brave, how can they be? I am what I am and it is the way it is right now and there’s no sense in hiding it. I’m not pretending anything. I feel fine and I’m OK strength-wise and as long as I don’t get a chemo brain I’ll be fine.”
Murray is clearly not wasting time asking “Why me?” even though he said he wasn’t sick “a day in my life,” until the cancer diagnosis. Murray’s nephew, Buffalo Sabres new GM Tim, said recently that if he had known his uncle was so ill, he might have been tempted to turn down the Sabres job when it came open last season. At the time, Bryan Murray told his nephew that he should take the job if it were offered to him.
“I’m sure that now he feels he could have helped me more and I appreciate that,” Bryan Murray said. “Good for him that he got the job he did and I know he’ll do a good job over time.”
It was then suggested to Murray that if Tim really felt that badly, perhaps he could be talked into swapping first-round picks with his uncle.
“Something like that,” Murray joked. “Something to help me quicker than maybe I need to be helped.”