RALEIGH, N.C. – Bryan Bickell had the familiar grin on his face. The easygoing demeanor is still there, too.
Decked out in a burgundy suit, Bickell looks fit. He looks like he could play tomorrow. He’d love to do just that but after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis this fall, Bickell is playing the waiting game. Still, the former Blackhawks forward is feeling better and, while it may take time, he’s still determined to play again.
Bickell was at Friday’s game when his former team took on his current one, the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s undergoing treatment for his illness and has been working out. He doesn’t have a timetable on when he’ll return but he likes the progress he’s making.
“[I’m] better than I was a couple months ago. But the procedures are going well,” Bickell said during the first intermission on Friday. “I just got my first one done a couple weeks ago. Feel better, feel more normal than I did a couple months ago. It’s going to take steps. It’s not a sprint, it’s going to be a marathon, and it’s going to take some time to get things right, ideally, to get me back on the ice. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Bickell dealt with an ocular issue – it was first believed to be vertigo – during the 2015 Stanley Cup run. Even entering the following season Bickell was struggling. Whether or not that was the start of MS is uncertain.
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“I know the side effects I had, weeks going into the known [illness]. It got worse and things weren’t right. I don’t know if it was years, weeks or days,” Bickell said. “Something wasn’t right. To find out was a relief and a disappointment at the same time but that’s the past. It was a few months ago and now we’re moving on.”
So now Bickell goes through a monthly procedure. He just finished his first a few weeks ago.
“So the drug that I’ll be taking to help me be normal, I have to get it once a month. [I] take a day off and go hang out in the room and getting an IV to make me feel right. It’s what I need to do,” Bickell said. “From the couple weeks I got [first] it, I feel better, and hopefully this process keeps moving forward to get me back on the ice. My mindset is to get back on the ice and I think I can do that. And hopefully I don’t get too bad out of shape, it won’t take that long.”
Bickell saw some of the Blackhawks scratches who skated on Friday morning and hoped to see a few other teammates after the game. It’s been a tough few months for the forward but his optimistic attitude has helped. Bickell wants to be on the ice again. With continued progress, he very well could be some day.
“I’m sure you guys know, I’m pretty positive, pretty happy guy. Nothing’s going to slow me down,” Bickell said. “Getting diagnosed with MS was a speed bump in my happiness but I’ve moved on and [I’m] moving forward. Keep a smile on my face and stay positive. It’ll help me through this.”