Lindblom shares harrowing journey in battle with cancer originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Programming Note: Catch an excerpt of Oskar Lindblom’s interview Thursday at 7 p.m. PT during “Sharks Pregame Live” on NBC Sports California.
Life is incredibly unpredictable, as Sharks forward Oskar Lindblom can attest to.
Speaking with NBC Sports for the “Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports” series, the 26-year-old discussed his journey fighting cancer and how he initially found out about his diagnosis back in December 2019 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I didn't feel anything wrong, like felt good," Lindblom said. "Then a bump on my chest kind of started getting bigger and bigger and I thought I got hit and I thought it was a bruise that got big because we play all the time, right?"
The forward revealed that he initially didn't get checked since he thought it was just a regular injury. However, at his girlfriend, Alma Lindqvist's insistence, Lindblom had a check-up a few days after to calm her nerves.
Lindblom recalls that he was supposed to get a call back from the doctor before flying to Colorado. Instead, he was told to fly back to Philadelphia to see his doctors and to discuss the test results.
During this time, Lindblom said that he felt like he was in a "black room" by himself and was sad, trying to figure out what was going on.
Speaking with his doctors, Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a type of tumor that forms from a certain kind of cell in bones or soft tissues.
Typically, Ewing sarcoma begins in the lower extremities but it can pop up in other parts of the body, including the chest, abdomen and other limbs. Children and teenagers are more likely to develop Ewing's sarcoma but it can happen at any age, as Lindblom was 23 when he was diagnosed.
After consulting with an Ewing's sarcoma specialist in Philadelphia, a treatment plan was devised: Lindblom would have to do six months of chemotherapy followed by three months of surgery to get rid of the cancerous piece of bone.
Lindblom's body reacted well to chemotherapy and after two months of the treatment, it appeared as if the cancer was going away. Despite the progress, Lindblom still describes the situation as "scary" and tried his best to keep his mind right.
"... I was excited even though I felt really bad and tried to get out to do workouts and walks and everything to get my mind out of the treatment and try to look forward to my normal life," Lindblom recalled.
Lindblom's treatment hit a bump in the road during the COVID-19 pandemic. The forward credits Lindqvist for keeping him focused and determined and likened the experience to a season in the NHL, just grinding to the finish line.
"I mean those days when I did treatments, like you sat in a chair for like 5-6 hours and just got pumped with chemo, so those days were tough," Lindblom said. "I guess trying to see it as a game, like in a season, like more games you play, the closer you get in the end and maybe play the playoffs so just trying to get through and grind through it and luckily I did and I'm happy."
Once Lindblom finally was done with his treatment, he rang a bell at the Abramson Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, a moment he says was "awesome" and gave him "goosebumps."
"I mean just to walk through that and the hospital and see all the nurses that have been by my side helping me and being able to ring that bell was a crazy day," Lindblom continued. "I can't really -- like you've thought about it before like, but it felt so far away all the time so when that day came, it was unbelievable."
When he finally returned to the ice and was showered with affection by the fans, Lindblom called the moment "special."
"I mean you feel so loved and you skate on the ice again and you do what you love and you see all the fans and they're cheering for you so I can't thank them enough to do that for me and always going to remember that," Lindblom added.
In his last season with the Flyers, Lindblom won the 2020-21 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded annually to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey."
In all, Lindblom's message to those dealing with their own cancer journey is to talk to those around them as things will invariably change.
"Try to be with people around: Friends, family, whoever could be of help," Lindblom said. "It helped me a lot even when my family back home used to talk with someone on the phone helps a lot, so try to get your mind off a little bit."
Spending five seasons with the Flyers before signing a two-year contract with the Sharks, Lindblom's journey has been one of inspiration and triumph to fans around the NHL.
No matter how unpredictable life might be, Lindblom's perseverance and determination proved that anything is possible.
If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at any time by calling or texting 9-8-8.