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MacDonald Looks to Return Next Year

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 20, 2005

TROY - Kirk MacDonald will not be able to rejoin his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team this season.

While the senior right winger and team's leading scorer during the 2004-05 season is quite disappointed by that revelation, hes also relieved and looks forward to a medical redshirt waiver which would allow him to play next season.

"On recommendation of my doctors, I will not be able to play hockey this season," MacDonald said during a conference call on Wednesday.

"It was tough," MacDonald said of the doctors' decision, "but it wasn't unexpected. If the doctors hadn't told me I couldn't play, I would have pushed myself to get back. That would have been very stressful. Now that I know (this season is out), I don't have that stress and I can work out when I can and take much longer."

"I'm definitely planning to play at the start of next season," MacDonald said. (In retrospect), there's no sense in rushing back and just playing a few games late in the season and wasting a whole year on that."

MacDonald led the Engineers in goals (16) and points (16-20-36) last season and for his career, has 76 points (35-41-76) in 104 games.

The Victoria, B.C., native had vowed to return this season after treatment for testicular cancer, but complications created by chemotherapy will keep him sidelined.

MacDonald, who's had four surgeries since April 12, the latter three more recently, explained that it wasn't the cancer, or even the chemo per se, that will keep him out.

"I had surgery to remove the infected testicle on April 12 (at Albany Med), then I began chemo the next day," MacDonald said. "Sometimes, there's a mass left in the abdomen and I had surgery on Aug. 2."

"My body didn't take to that very well," MacDonald said, noting that surgery took nine hours.

"Then I got an infection in my incision site and I had to have another surgery four weeks later (Aug. 30)," he said. "Then I got a bowel infection and had to have another surgery for that on Sept. 24.

Those surgeries all took place in Vancouver and MacDonald was hospitalized 67 days.

"That's pretty much why I can't play this year; those two surgeries (in Aug.) that were not related to the cancer."

MacDonald said he's virtually cancer free.

"Yeah, my last surgery was to remove the last part of the mass," he said. "There's no more treatment needed."

MacDonald says he began noticing back pain last January and by late in the season (March), "I couldn't even sleep at night, it was so painful."

The 6-foot-2 MacDonald plays at about 212-215 pounds.

He said Wednesday he's down to "about 155, 160."

"And you lose a lot of muscle mass just sitting around," said MacDonald, who can now resume a normal diet and hopes to get his weight up soon.

"I can eat whatever I want now," he said. "For a while, my doctors had me on a low-fat diet. Now they say eat as much fat as I want."

As for working out, the rugged MacDonald can't go full tilt for another 10 weeks or so.

"Right now, no," he said. "I'm not doing much, just light stuff. I've had a lot of trauma to my abdominal muscles and I can't do any stressful stuff until January."

MacDonald says he was "shocked" when he learned of the cancer back in April but says that now, other than the fact of not being able to play frustrates him immensely, his spirits are up.

"For the most part, pretty good," he said. "I was never really down. It was tough being in the hospital. That was a pretty long stay. I got pretty down then. It was frustrating."

"Right now, though," he added, "mentally and physically, I feel pretty good."

MacDonald says he "has no words to express" the gratitude he feels for the support he's received from RPI coaches, players and fans.

"I got cards from people I never met before in my life," he said. "Huge stack of letters, some from total strangers. I heard from other (college) hockey programs. That stuff was awesome."

MacDonald plans on returning to class next semester.