RPI's MacDonald Decides to Wait
Surgeries Will Keep the Forward Off the Ice in 2005-06
by Ken Schott/Special to CHN
TROY, N.Y. Getting over testicular cancer was the easy part for Rensselaer senior forward Kirk MacDonald.
Recovering from three surgeries over a two-month span proved to be more problematic.
It is because of those three surgeries that MacDonald announced during a conference call Wednesday that he won't play this season. The 21-year-old MacDonald will apply to the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver so that he can play next season.
In his first interview since he announced in April that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, MacDonald said he has been advised by his doctors that he needs time to recover from the surgeries.
It is a decision that has put MacDonald's mind at ease.
"It was tough [to accept the decision]," MacDonald, RPI's leading scorer and team MVP last season, said from his Victoria, British Columbia, home. "But it was almost better that they said you can't play this year from having surgery. If they wouldn't have said I couldn't have played, I would have pushed myself and tried to get back in the lineup, whether it was January or February, and it probably wouldn't have happened. I would have just been stressing about it for a couple of months, and worrying about it.
"Now that I know, I have a full year to recover, and I can get myself ready for next year."
RPI coach Dan Fridgen wasn't surprised by MacDonald's decision.
"I just don't see how he's going to get strong enough and get back here, and then, forget the fact he's already behind the players," Fridgen said. "Let's say he came back in January to play, he's still going be about three or fourth months behind the players who are already in midseason form. That's quite a disadvantage to be under, considering the game is all about time and speed.
"The decision to redshirt is a wise one because he'll give himself the opportunity to get back to where he was so that when he begins the season, he's on a level playing ground with everyone else."
MacDonald, who sounded good during the half-hour call, was candid about the entire process and his treatment.
He began experiencing back pain in January. At first, he thought it would go away with treatment.
But the pain persisted. By the time RPI played Brown in the first round of the ECACHL tournament in March, MacDonald could barely bend to tie his skates.
"By the end of the season, I couldn't even sleep at night the pain was so bad," MacDonald said. "Honestly, I don't know how I played the last weekend against Brown."
On April 12, he had surgery at Albany Medical Center Hospital to remove the infected testicle. MacDonald had four rounds of chemotherapy, the first of which made him very sick, but the last three were a little better. He was warned that there would probably be a mass left over in his abdomen.
The chemotherapy didn't get rid of that. So on Aug. 2, MacDonald underwent nine hours of surgery in Vancouver, British Columbia, to remove the mass.
That led to complications. He got an infection in his incision. A month after the surgery, his incision ripped open, forcing surgery to repair it. He then had a bowel obstruction in the small intestine, and had surgery Sept. 24 to repair that.
MacDonald didn't leave the hospital until Oct. 6.
"My body didn't exactly respond to the surgery," said MacDonald, whose weight is around 155 pounds, down 55 from his playing weight.
He plans to return to campus before the end of 2005, once he is at full strength. He will attend classes starting in January.
"I want to get back as soon as possible," MacDonald said.
Considering what he has been through, MacDonald said his range of emotions have been pretty good.
"It was a pretty much a shock at the start, back in April," MacDonald said. "You kind of prepare yourself, go through the chemotherapy, and that was tough. But there's a lot of people around, my friends back home and the guys [his teammates], the RPI community and the coaches, everybody was great in supporting me. It really helped. I never felt down about anything."
Ken Schott is a staff writer for the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette.