At this time of year, the Penticton Vees players and coaches are consumed by wins and losses, and how it effects their season, and let’s be honest, their personal well-being. But their focus has also shifted off the ice recently, after one member of their organization was dealt with some life changing news.
Jamie Weberg, the Vees team Chaplain, was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. A form of cancer that’s incurable but treatable with various forms of medication. But Jamie’s attitude is in the right place, as he quipped he’ll do “whatever it takes,” adopting the Vees team slogan in his battle with cancer.
It was unexpected news for Jamie, 35, and his wife Kristen, who he has two kids with Emma, aged 5 and Jensen 2. Jamie says he felt “wiped out” and “nauseous” since the New Year but initially it was thought he just had a winter bug, like so many of us do this time of year. Jamie was ordered to stay off his feet and get a week’s rest. He returned to his busy schedule of help running the Penticton Church of Nazarene, where he has been a pastor for eight years. His symptoms persisted and a trip to the hospital the following week discovered something far more serious.
“They found my kidneys were only functioning at thirty percent and a high calcium count in my blood. Then it was a bone biopsy and kidney biopsy and more blood tests, and it went on and on,” said Jamie.
The results from his tests came in on February 7th. It wasn’t the news he was hoping for. Jamie shared the results with the Vees coaching staff and players that day before their game with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Vees went on to win 3-2 behind an emotional charged effort, one which Jamie got to enjoy in person with his wife and some family; a welcomed distraction.
How did a soft-spoken, baby-faced pastor get involved with the Vees? Well, through their rivals the West Kelowna Warriors no less. Two years ago Weberg was approached by the Warriors Chaplain and head of Hockey Ministries’ BC Division Don Richmond, about an opening he had in Penticton.
“I love hockey, I grew up playing hockey, and I wanted to part of it any way I could” said Jamie “I was so nervous that first time coming in but right away they put me at ease, I felt so much care and respect from the players and the entire organization.”
For the past three seasons, Weberg has come into the rink every second Tuesday, with a party platter of subs under one arm, and towing a cooler full of soft drinks with the other, to “share life with the boys,” as he puts it. Jamie says he has a “young face” that the players can relate to, let their guard down, and just talk about whatever may be troubling them.
“They’re young, some of them are far from home, and they’re dealing with different situations. They share on topics they want to talk about, and I can speak to them through my experiences at their age, and give them a faith based perspective on how to steer their moral compass and how that will benefits them.”
At the beginning of every season, Jamie speaks on the makeup of a team, one in which he says consists of three main components: physical, mental and spiritual. Physically, he says, they are with each other all season, battling game in and game out. Mentally, they handle a ton of pressure, pushing for scholarships. Then there’s the spiritual aspect, where he can lend his expertise.
“They’re great kids doing great things; we talk about being a complete player on the ice, and there’s also being a complete player in the game we call life. That’s where I want to help them.”
The tables were turned when Jamie got news of his cancer, as it was the team, 22 young-men, coming to comfort him. The Monday after he got his test results, the entire team surprised him by showing up to his house with a team signed jersey and stick. A bunch of 16 to 20-year-olds applied lessons learned from their Chaplain.
“I told them this is what it’s all about, being there for each other, supporting one another in a times of need.”
Jamie was taken aback by the gesture, when recounting the visit from the team, he paused, the emotion in his voice grew when he said, “On championship teams, there are moments that teammates share with one another that they’ll never forget, and that moment, that day they came to see me, I’ll never forget and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Vees are battling for top spot in the Interior Division in the final weeks of the regular season. Jamie has started his own battle, as he’s taking medication, a type of steroid, which helps combat the pain, and like a hockey team, he has his good days and bad days.
“The four days I’m on the steroids I feel like I have energy, I want to get up, I want to shower, get dressed, I feel like eating. But on those four days off, I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to eat; it’s been emotional, a see-saw.”
Jamie has gone under a battery of tests at clinics here in Penticton and seen specialists in Kelowna. it’s frustrating, playing the waiting game for results. He’s recently had to go back to the hospital, for more x-rays, after pain flared up in his chest, which means even more medication.
Jamie says it’s been hard on his family too. His strength comes and goes, meaning he can’t be involved as much as he wants to in the day-to-day life of being a husband and a dad to his children Emma and Jensen. Just letting his guard down and just being sick, as he says, has been hard on them. However, because of them, his kids, Jamie is determined to beat the cancer. With a grin, Jamie notes that he can’t wait to just spend more time with his family when he’s healthy.
In the meantime, Jamie says he is so thankful for the support system he and his family have from the team and especially his church, which has done so much for them, from brining over hot meals to helping out with work around the house.
But it doesn’t end there. The Vees have announced they will donate fifty percent of walk-up tickets sales from Friday’s home game against the Trail Smoke Eaters, to Jamie and his family to help in his fight against cancer. There will also be a table setup at the rink for season ticket holders to donate to the family. The team is also working with the BCHL office, to have a recent fine they were levied to instead be donated to the Weberg family.
Jamie says it’s been a weird struggle, being on the other end of people’s generosity. He is humbled by the outpouring of support, “It’s always easier being on the giving side, where you can be helping people out, but you just have to get past the pride, as I don’t know how long this road is.”
Jamie says when he sees people in need, it’s an opportunity to give, and that’s a privilege and honour to be able to do that.
Well, now it’s our turn to give back to one a man that has dedicated his life to giving back to his community. Join the Penticton Vees on Friday, February 21st, to show your support to Jamie and the Weberg family. Puck drops at 7pm. Here’s an opportunity to give.