“As of yesterday, I am officially cancer-free and my period of recovery has surpassed,” Waite told Game On Wednesday evening. “Because of the pandemic the hospitals are a lot less busy than usual, so I actually went in on a Monday for an examination and blood work, and by the next morning I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed that day. I then got a call on the Wednesday morning and by noon I was in surgery.”
With the Canadian Junior Hockey League shutting down its regional playoffs early due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the former Winnipeg Wild Midget AAA blueliner seemingly ‘lucked out’ on just how quickly his case was reviewed and dealt with.
“When I first discovered the then unknown lump I wasn’t sure what to think,” the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Winnipegger said. “I started to do some research and felt like I needed to get it checked out. Of course they could only do over the phone conversations, but after talking everything over, I got a call from the specialist and within three days the surgery was complete. Everything happened super quickly. So it was definitely shocking, but at the same time I had been preparing for the worst for at least a week by then.”
Waite has spent the past two seasons out west, lacing up for the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 2018-19, before being dealt to the Prince George Spruce Kings in September of 2019. In 106 combined games, the offensive defenceman has 12 goals, 53 points and 68 penalty minutes.
The first four weeks of recovery following his surgery were tough for the business school hopeful, as he was required to take things light and easy, while not putting too much strain on his body. Walking his dog was about as much activity as he was allowed. But now after having been given the green light, Waite is back to working out and training for the upcoming 2020-21 BCHL season in Prince George with the Spruce Kings.
Waite says that his friends, teammates and family have made the process significantly easier over the past month with countless well-wishes and check-ins. The 20-year-old has also been in contact with fellow testicular cancer-surviving hockey players Stelio Mattheos (Charlotte Checkers) and Thomas Hansell (Charleswood Hawks).
“Knowing that Stelio and Thomas had gone through the same thing within the past few years and come out of it even stronger was a huge boost of confidence and reassurance for me,” Waite shared. “They were more than happy to help me out with any questions I had along the way, while also sharing how their individual processes differed from mine. It was really comforting for sure, so I owe them a big thanks, no doubt.”
Mattheos, also 20, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last spring following the Checkers’ American Hockey League Calder Cup championship. His diagnosis did require a more extensive process involving chemotherapy. Carolina’s third round selection from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft missed a significant portion of the 2019-20 season in recovery, returning to the team full-time in mid-February.
“Through the recovery, I was able to skate and workout when I felt able to do that,” Mattheos told Game On. “The team trainers did a great job understanding how my body was feeling. It definitely took a bit for me to start feeling like myself again though. Then it took a bit for me to get my timing back once the games started. When the season ended I felt like I was really catching my stride again, but unfortunately it came to an end early.”
“I am super happy for Mason getting the big news,” Mattheos said of Waite’s recent clean bill of health. “I think it’s important to move on, and I have tried not to change too much, although it gives my life a new perspective. It definitely makes you think about what’s important in your life. Other then that, hopefully I can make this journey easier for others in the future. The best thing young guys can do is if they notice something to speak up right away. Early detection is a game-changer.”
Waite echoed Mattheos’ comments on self-screening, indicating the importance of speaking up and voicing concerns, being safe rather than sorry.
“To all the young men out there, this really came out of nowhere and you’ll never expect it,” Waite said. “Because I was able to catch this early and work up the nerve to talk about it with doctors, I was fortunate enough to save myself the hardship of going through chemo. There’s absolutely zero shame in talking about it and getting it checked out, so please, for your own sake, watch out for yourselves and do not be scared.”