From Diagnosis to Rink, Playing for Purpose

In 2021, PJ, 40, started to feel ill, a feeling that persisted daily with symptoms of dehydration. He went to the hospital for answers and a scan determined that he had an encapsulated mass the size of a grapefruit on his kidney. Soon after, PJ was diagnosed with kidney cancer. 

PJ was referred to Dr. Alfredo Torres, a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists. Dr. Torres recommended surgery to remove the cancerous kidney, leaving him to live with just one kidney. Once the mass was removed, PJ began his recovery. 

“I was very lucky,” PJ says. “My recovery involved a lot of rest and walking. Little by little, every day or so, I felt a little better. I had a ton of support from everybody that I knew.”

As PJ recovered, Dr. Torres encouraged him to become more active. PJ played ice hockey and travel roller hockey years ago when he was in high school and was eager to play again. When Dr. Torres discovered PJ was a hockey player, he mentioned that the New York Cancer Foundation hosts an annual charity hockey event called Hockey for Hope every year. He decided to join the New York Cancer Foundation hockey team. 

“It is a great bunch of guys to play with and Hockey for Hope is a great event to be part of,” PJ says. “Every time I play, it gets better and better.”

Last year, PJ was honored to start the game with the honorary puck drop. It has now been his third year playing on the team. PJ enjoys the camaraderie and community of the game. Hockey for Hope hosted its fourth game in April at Clark Gillies Arena at Dix Hills Ice Rink.

PJ’s friends and family cheered him on at the games, including his 5-year-old Godson, who now wants to start playing hockey. 

PJ returned to work at Union Local 200 after his recovery, where he took it easy getting back into the flow of things. He also made healthy lifestyle changes after his diagnosis.  

 “Dr. Torres helped guide me to become a better and healthier person and be aware of what I was eating. He put me in touch with the right people for my health and is a really caring doctor,” PJ says. 

PJ still sees Dr. Torres yearly for checkups and scans. 

“I look at life differently. I have a whole different perspective, and I appreciate everything,” PJ says.” When faced with different scenarios, my outlook has changed for the better.” 


Find More Articles