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Roddy Piper Battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma

WWW- For years, (Rowdy) Roddy Piper has insisted that, if not for the support of wrestling fans around the world, he would probably be dead.

Now, through a serendipitous twist, Piper’s words resonate louder than ever. The Saskatoon-born wrestling legend is fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the body’s blood-filtering tissues. Doctors discovered the cancer while performing back surgery after Piper suffered an injury while touring with World Wrestling Entertainment in Europe last month.

Piper, 52, wasn’t even supposed to be wrestling – he was expected to tour Quebec City, Montreal and selected southern Ontario cities by train to promote a WWE/VIA Rail partnership for Wrestlemania 23 next April in Detroit. But Piper was forced into extended ring duty at the world tag team championship at the Cyber Sunday pay-per-view event on Nov. 5.

There, in a unique promotion, fans voted the popular Piper into the match with Ric Flair – he earned 46 per cent of the votes, compared to Dusty Rhodes at 35 per cent and Sergeant Slaughter at 19.

That bout led him to the European gig, where he suffered the back ailment that led to the discovery of the cancer.

“If the fans hadn’t voted me in (at Cyber Sunday), I wouldn’t have discovered this,” Piper said in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore. “I would have gone three to five years and never known it. And it’s in my lymph glands, so it wouldn’t have taken long to go through my entire body.”

The cancer wasn’t Piper’s only problem. The surgery also revealed a damaged disc that threatened to end his career.

“This doctor put me on the slab, and it turned out, I had a bone about the size of a potato chip, and about that thin,” said Piper. “And it was starting to cut the nerves inside my spine.”

“It was just a matter of me moving too much one way or the other, and I would have been paralyzed.”

Piper began undergoing radiation therapy immediately (“I glow in the dark now,” he joked), and because the lymphoma was caught early, doctors say his chances for recovery are excellent.

“I’ve got a 30 per cent chance of (the radiation) not working,” said Piper. “Well shoot, those are good odds to me.”

Well wishes are pouring in for Piper, who remains one of wrestling’s most entertaining characters in a career that has spanned four decades. Those in the business are eager to see Piper return to action as soon as he’s able.

“I’m so impressed with Roddy’s incredible fighting spirit, and I’m confident he will beat the challenge he’s facing,” said Carl DeMarco, president of WWE Canada. “He has an incredibly positive attitude, and is an inspiration to others who are fighting the same thing.”

Piper went public with his cancer fight for that very reason.

“I’m going to beat it, and that way I can go back in a cancer survivor,” said Piper. “I think I can help a lot of people if I was myself a cancer survivor, because then I’m not just blowing smoke. I’ll know what they’ve gone through.”

Piper, who is married with four children, said he feels terrible for putting his family through such a trying ordeal.

“I love my kids so much,” Piper said, choking back tears. “Me, I don’t care so much about. They don’t deserve that kind of worry, especially around Christmas. I think that’s the hardest part.”

Piper is no stranger to adversity. He left home as a young teenager, expelled from junior high school and on the outs with his father. He wrestled his first professional match at 15, and wound up a beaten mess. He’s had sprains, strains and broken bones in every place imaginable.

In other words, Piper is ready for his toughest battle yet.

“This radiation treatment, it kicks the stuffings out of you a little bit,” said Piper. “But I’m a fighter. It’s picked on the wrong guy this time.”

 

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