Teenage hockey player keeps head up in fight against cancer

Easter week is a time when 14-year-old Rebecca Wiseman would normally be playing hockey with friends.

However, the St. Anthony teenager won't be on one of the many minor hockey teams at ice rinks across the province this week.

Instead, she'll be taking chemotherapy treatment in her fight against Hodgkin's lymphoma.

While she's doing that, Wiseman's teammates and other players are showing their support for her, by wearing special patches on their uniforms as they head off to tournaments.

"I think it's really sweet how everyone's supporting me like this," said Wiseman.

"It makes everything easier, knowing that there's a lot of support coming behind me."

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Out for the season

Rebecca Wiseman's 2018-19 hockey season wasn't supposed to turn out like this.

After first enrolling in hockey at the age of three, Wiseman has grown up on the ice.

She's played with her hometown team, the St. Anthony Polars, as well as the Western Warriors AAA team, and the Western Newfoundland team at the provincial winter games.

Cara Hancock, president of the St. Anthony and Area Minor Hockey Association, can't say enough about how well Wiseman plays.

"She's definitely the top player of any team she's ever played on," said Hancock.

But, this season, a cancer diagnosis changed everything.

Wiseman was diagnosed less than four months ago, in December 2018.

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She noticed the lump in her neck in mid-December, had tests done, and received a suspected diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Wiseman found out on Christmas Eve that she'd need to go to St. John's to begin treatment immediately.

"It was pretty hard," said Wiseman.

"I spent most of Christmas Day over with [my friend] Allison, crying."

Wiseman's hockey season came to an abrupt halt as the family relocated temporarily to St. John's so Wiseman could start chemotherapy.

Helping her through a rough patch

Wiseman's coach, Mike Badcock, said the teen's diagnosis has affected everyone in the St. Anthony hockey community.

But he said Wiseman's own attitude has been inspiring.

"Rebecca is the type of girl that's resilient, and she just keeps fighting," said Badcock.

"I've never once heard her say, 'I've got cancer, and I don't understand why it's me.'"

Badcock said there have been fundraisers to support the family as they've had to move to St. John's while Wiseman gets treatment.

Submitted by Tony Moyles

But the local minor hockey association wanted to do something more.

Association president Cara Hancock said that's when the idea came up of creating a patch for St. Anthony hockey players to wear on their jerseys.

She sketched out a rough design and did a few internet searches to find a slogan she felt was appropriate.

Hancock settled on one that she feels embodies the message everyone wants to send to Wiseman and her family: "No One Fights Alone."

"Knowing Rebecca's personality and how fierce she is on the ice and what an incredible kid she is, I knew she was fighting hard," said Hancock.

"And I guess I just wanted her to know that we were a part of the fight with her."

Since St. Anthony players started wearing the patches, Hancock said there's been a demand from other hockey teams from across the province asking if they, too, can have patches to support Rebecca Wiseman.

As a result, about 3,000 patches have now been distributed, along with hundreds of matching stickers, which some players are placing on their helmets.

That means players from not just St. Anthony but teams from across Newfoundland and Labrador will be sporting the "No One Fights Alone" patch on their uniforms during minor hockey tournaments this week.

Sets goal to be back in the game

For Wiseman, all the support has made a difference.

"It just means a lot knowing how much the hockey community comes together when stuff like this happens," she said.

While chemotherapy treatments leave her with nausea, vomiting, and extreme fatigue, she says she takes heart in knowing that the worst will soon be behind her, as she's now headed into her last month of being in St. John's.

"Just keep thinking positive about stuff and take everything one day at a time," Wiseman said of her approach to her illness.

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During a recent visit home to St. Anthony, Wiseman even suited up and hit the rink at the Polar Centre for several hockey practices with teammates.

"Getting back out on the ice was really great," said Wiseman.

"It helps a lot mentally to just get back and see everyone and kind of feel normal again for a bit." 

Ever the hockey player, Wiseman has her eye on the goal which, in this case, is returning to the game she loves.

She's looking past the last chemotherapy treatments to better days ahead, with summer hockey camps and next year's hockey season already filling her dreams.

Wiseman can't wait to be back playing hockey for real.

"It's no trouble to miss it," she said.

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