As part of the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, which annually takes place in during the month of November, the Capitals and the NHL are profiling players in the game who have been impacted by cancer.
This year, there are no special Hockey Fights Cancer sticks or jerseys or hospital visits thanks to COVID-19, but the Capitals, like other teams, are featuring stories about those persons impacted by cancer. Today, the NHL is profiling Caps’ forward Jakub Vrana whose mother, Jana Vranova, was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes five years ago.
Vrana, who spoke with NHL.com from Sweden where he is currently training while awaiting word on when training camp for the 2020-21 season will begin, knows how important it is to have a positive mindset when fighting cancer, as his mother did five years ago
“As I know from my experience, it’s a good thing. So when I’m talking to the people when we have the skate or visit them at the hospital, I haven’t been through it, but I have experience in my family.”
Vrana remembers being 19 years old and playing hockey for Linkopings in the Swedish Hockey League in 2015 when his half-sister, Jana Krizova, called him with the bad news of his mother’s diagnosis. He immediately called his mother and said he was coming home. However, his mother dissuaded him.
“The first thing she told me was she wanted me to play. She didn’t want me to come. She wanted me to play because she said she is the happiest person when she sees me play hockey.”
Vrana felt torn because he wanted to be at home to support his mother, his father Karel and his half-sister, whose own father Jarolsav Kriz had died from throat cancer years earlier.
But with his mother was watching him from afar, Vrana became more motivated to give his best effort in every game. His mom had lost her hair when having chemotherapy, but didn’t lose her determination to survive.
Vrana said, “I just knew right away she was going to beat it because I just believed in her. I just saw it, When I was lying in bed at night, I was thinking about it a lot that I know my mom, she’s a really strong woman and she will beat it.”
She has been cancer free for three years and now, at age 55, has regular checkups to make sure the cancer has not returned.
Vrana admitted, “When this came it was really hard for me. You kind of open your eyes into life how important your family is and how important your closest ones are. It’s not an easy situation, but at that moment you need the closest ones around you to support you, have a strong mindset, have a positive mindset, find a way to live your life happy.”
Vrana understands the importance of supporting initiatives such as Hockey Fights Cancer, which was founded by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association in 1998. When Caps; analyst Craig Laughlin asked him to attend a fundraiser for the Laughlin Family Foundation this past February, he did not hesitate about attending.
That foundation was created after Laughlin’s wife, Linda, was diagnosed with uterine serous carcinoma, a rare form of endometrial cancer in 2018. Vrana said, “Of course, I can. Of course, it’s because of my mom, my family, but at the same time it’s doesn’t just have to be because of that. It’s a good cause. … You’re doing a good thing not just for yourself but for the people around you.”
The original story from NHL.com can be found here.
By Diane Doyle