Smuk thankful for local support in cancer fight

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Former Warrior back in Moose Jaw for steak night

It never occurred to Cody Smuk that he would be battling cancer at the age of 25.

Cody Smuk from the Moose Jaw Warriors blows past a Vancouver Gianst defenceman during the 2009-10 season. Now the 25-year-old is looking to beat cancer.

Even when he feeling the affects of cancer, that diagnosis had never crossed his mind.

"If you think that cancer may affect you or be a part of your life, you never think it's going to be when you're 25," said Smuk. "I didn't really have any symptoms, so when I went it they thought it was just pneumonia. I left and had to come back for some more tests and I thought 'oh OK, it's just pneumonia. I've got a cough. It will to be OK.' And then the next day I found out I had cancer."

The former Moose Jaw Warrior was back in the Friendly City Wednesday to attend a charity steak night in his honour held at the Crushed Can. It has been two months since Smuk was diagnosed with having testicular cancer along with a tumour in his right lung. The Saskatoon native will complete his second round of chemotherapy treatments on Monday.

The chemo treatments take their toll, but Smuk was happy to be back and to see some familiar faces.

"It was touching to see everybody again. I got to run into some old teammates and some guys I played against who live in the area. It just brought back a lot of good memories that I have from Moose Jaw," he said. Former teammates like Jason Bast, Travis Ehrhardt and Brennan Wray were all on hand to lend their support.

"It shows you how strong the hockey community is in Moose Jaw and how strong that organization is. They really take care of you once you've been a part of that program."

In addition to the money raised from the steak night there were auction items also up for bid to support Smuk.

Smuk raised more than $20,000 through a fundraising campaign that will help pay for his education and his living expenses while he battles the disease. Because he was unable to work as he normally would in the summer, the generosity has been valuable to keep him on track towards earning his university degree.

"It's been a very emotion past two months for myself and my family," said Smuk. "With the support we've received in the past two months it really has made it a lot easier on us. We're very grateful for all of the people who are helping me out in this time of my life. It is overwhelming, but it's also almost surreal to have this kind of support."

Smuk played 118 games with the Warriors from 2008-10. He scored 11 goals and had 38 points in his time in Moose Jaw while also picking up 152 penalty minutes. He was noted for his work ethic and his grit which should hold him in good stead as he prepares for the battle of his life.

Smuk has spent the past four years playing with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

He has undergone six weeks of chemo and will have another three-week round of chemo in August. If all goes well he will be done that round of chemo in mid-August, but will be done by the first of September at worst.

Smuk is planning to return to the U of S where he is a commerce student at the Edwards School of Business. He half of a semester away from finishing his Business Management degree.

He is also hoping to help spread the word about men's cancer and fill what he feels is an information gap about the reality of cancer and younger men.

"Being a younger male you never really think that's going to happen to you this soon in your life. That's what caught me off guard," said Smuk. "I thought I was a relatively healthy guy. That just goes to show you that it can happen to anyone really. Now, I've come into contact with more and more younger males who have had this happen to them and it's definitely something that needs to be recognized and people need to be getting themselves checked annually. That's something I've learned anyway.

"From what I've been told, the numbers are only going up in younger males from ages 20-30. That's predominantly the age group that thinks they're invincible, so to speak, who think 'this can't happen to me.'"

While women are all aware of the importance of breast exams and self-checking for lumps, it's a subject that is almost never brought up when it comes to testicular cancer.

"I definitely think that's something that needs to be brought to light. Going for regular examination is huge and just learning how to examine yourself in appropriate ways can be critical," said Smuk. "It's something younger males need to be aware of. I was clueless. I didn't know. I thought I was completely fine. I thought I just had a virus going to the hospital that day."

Anyone interest in helping Smuk can donate to his online campaign at www.gofundme.com/codysmuk. He said he is going to look into giving back some of the funds that have been raised to cancer charities.

"I'm starting to focus on charities now to donate some of the money. I'm trying to keep it in Saskatchewan. I've yet to pick one, but when I do it will be on my gofundme web page and I'll update everyone," he said.

Organizations: University of Saskatchewan Huskies.He, Edwards School of Business

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Friendly, Saskatoon Saskatchewan

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