Submitted by Bud McKay – Special to the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League
8/28/2022-Artie Huycke caught a lucky break last year. In fact, five of them.
After a bicycle accident on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Kenmore on September 16, 2021, Huycke landed directly on his chest, breaking five ribs and suffering a punctured left lung. Just two days away from his Mustangs baseball team’s playoff game in the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League’s Adirondack Division, the accident ended his season.
But it may have saved his life.
Artie Huycke, with the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League’s Adirondack Mustangs, gets a hit as the Mustangs beat the Adirondack Mavericks 13-12 at Bannerwood Ball Park in Redmond Aug. 20. (Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley).
Due to the serious injuries from the accident, the University of Washington Medical Center’s radiology team did an X-ray and a CT scan. The CT scan revealed a mass on Huycke’s pancreas. They recommended he have an MRI.
“Two weeks later, I had the MRI, and they said it had the signs of adenocarcinoma pancreatic cancer,” Huycke said, who lives in north Seattle. “A week after that, I had an endoscopy and they were able to get to the tumor to cut a chunk out of it to be tested.”
On Oct. 6, among the texts and calls Huycke received wishing him a happy 66th birthday, one of the calls came from his doctor.
“I got word on my birthday that I have pancreatic cancer,” Huycke said, who retired from Boeing and now works part-time for a Boeing contractor. “My doctor said, ‘That bike accident is the best thing that ever happened to you.’”
That’s because they caught the pancreatic cancer early. And that’s key with any cancer diagnosis, but especially pancreatic cancer because there are very few symptoms in the early stages.
Huycke and his wife immediately began a furious effort to determine the best game plan in battling the cancer. Huycke went to three different cancer treatment programs before deciding to join the team from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
“I chose them because they had a very solid, integrated team approach – being a baseball guy, I really liked that,” Huycke said. “Also, while discussing a topic as serious as pancreatic cancer, the surgeon and I were still able to find things to laugh about. That meant a lot to me.”
Just about a month after his birthday, Huycke started the first of eight rounds of chemo on Nov. 10. He would get chemo treatments every two weeks through March. He would have the month of March off from chemo and was slated to have surgery to remove the tumor in late March.
“They took out the tumor, half my pancreas, my spleen, and about a dozen lymph nodes,” Huycke said. “They sent everything to the lab for testing, and the post-surgery pathology reported there no sign of cancer outside of the tumor itself.”
In May, just two months after his surgery, Huycke started four more rounds of chemo every two weeks. He missed the 2022 PSSBL season opener but took to the field June 5 for the second game, getting a hit and an RBI for the Mustangs in their 12-6 win against the Bees.
Five games later, he would finish his last round of chemo on July 15.
“Sometimes, I can’t get my head around how fortunate I am,” Huycke said. “It’s overwhelming at times. I haven’t had many ‘why me?’ moments in getting pancreatic cancer, but I’ve had bigger ‘why me?’ moments when I think, ‘Why am I the one to get advance notice on this and some great people … really great people … don’t?’ It’s a very emotional question for me, and one I struggle with.
“But I know, I’ll likely never know ‘why me?’”
For the most part, Huycke’s teammates didn’t know about the cancer until the start of the 2022 season. For teammate Bob Dickson, the news was a little more personal.
Dickson’s wife of 38 years, Janet Dickson, died of pancreatic cancer in 2015.
“He caught lightning in a bottle, and I just hope his surgery caught it all,” Dickson said, who is also a follicular lymphoma cancer survivor himself. “I’m so pulling for Artie to beat this. He’s one of the genuinely nicest guys I know. And I’ll be honest with you; whenever his name pops up, it just brings a smile to my face.”
And as Huycke and his Mustangs prepare for their playoff game at Shoreline’s Meridian Ball Park on Sept. 8 – almost a year after his bicycle accident – the thought of playing baseball filled his mind during his chemo treatments.
“I vividly remember a moment I had playing centerfield at Kent Memorial Park about a year before Covid-19 started,” Huycke said. “I remember looking around and just thinking to myself, ‘There is no other place I’d rather be than standing right here.’ That thought stayed with me all through the chemo treatments. I just couldn’t wait to get back on the field.”