Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

New Belfast Giants star Spiro Goulakos reveals how ice hockey was an escape in battle with cancer

By Ali Gordon

Belfast Giants’ new Canadian signing Spiro Goulakos has revealed how ice hockey helped him during his battle with cancer.

The 27-year-old from Montreal was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma while at university in New York.

“I was fortunate because going through the treatment I was still able to play hockey,” Spiro told Sunday Life.

“I was only in my second year of college at the time so it was a little surprising when I found out, but it was great to have something to take my mind away from what I was going through and have a distraction.

“I wanted a regular life and hockey let me do that.”

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer which originates from white blood cells in the lymph nodes.

Spiro was diagnosed with the deadly disease after a routine check-up when he was just 22.

He was forced to leave Colgate University, where he was studying economics, and return to his native Montreal for chemotherapy.

But it wasn’t long before he was back in New York playing the sport that he loved.

The ice hockey star said: “I was told by doctors that if I felt up to it, then I could go for it. Playing hockey wasn’t going to make me worse so I played when I could.”

As determined as ever, Spiro only missed 10 ice hockey games.

“I read up about it a lot and it comforted me to know that the prognosis was good,” he said.

“It was an inconvenience more than anything else. I wasn’t worried about the end outcome, but it was a lot to deal with an illness of that magnitude at the time.

“Thankfully it didn’t stop me from doing the things that I loved, like playing hockey, exercising and going out with my friends, but every two weeks I knew I had to go to the hospital.”

Spiro has now been given the all clear, but still attends biannual hospital check-ups.

Last week the Giants announced their medical partnership with  Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast, who will look after the players.

Ulster University sports management student Spiro says he’s been impressed by how well he has been treated since his arrival in the summer.

“I have no complaints, except for the weather,” joked Spiro, who has been exploring Northern Ireland with fellow Giant and flatmate Darcy Murphy during his free time.

So far the ice hockey team-mates have been to see Glentoran in an Irish League clash, Carrickfergus Castle, had a day trip to Bangor and lunch in the Ramore in Portrush.

“We have a car now so we want to go to the Giant’s Causeway and then, when we have a bit of time off, to Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher and Cork at some point. We’re going to see as much as we can. It’s a cool place.”

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