Trapper’s Den: Battered And Bruised, But “Big Bully” Is Cancer Free By Thomas Leturgey
The phone rings. At the other end of the cell phone is the powerlifter and retired professional wrestler Nick Busick. “This is for those who keep going, no matter what,” he says.
Big Bully Busick is cancer free.
For those have been following Busick’s fortunes, the World Wrestling Federation Bully was preparing for his induction into the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh on May 2 and he noticed some difficulty swallowing. He was in high spirits at the ceremony, accompanied by his sons Robert and Branko, and he visited with fellow inductee James J. Dillon and one of his mentors, Dominic DeNucci. Two days later his throat started to bleed uncontrollably. An endoscopy revealed the tumor. The diagnosis was Stage III.
Almost immediately, Busick underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatments three times a week. Chemotherapy brought the former North Georgia Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Champion to one knee. The tumor shriveled and his weight plummeted to near 200 from his usually robust and muscular 260. Chemotherapy also took his trademark “handlebar” mustache.
The seven-hour procedure done at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh was on August 14. In addition to eliminating the tumor, doctors removed four ribs and had to repair some of Busick’s esophagus and stomach that were damaged by the cancer. “It was very traumatic,” Busick continued. “Recovery is slow.” The ribs had been previously been broken due to wrestling and heavy weight lifting.
“Frankly, doctors say it’s a miracle,” Busick said.
Busick had a lot to look forward to. He refers to the Hall of Fame nod often. He was recognized by the KSWA for his career that began in 1977 in Pittsburgh and ended on April 19, 2013 in his hometown of Weirton, West Virginia. [It should be noted that Busick’s first official verifiable win was against the Red Demon at the former Civic Arena in Pittsburgh on January 6, 1979. The Red Demon was portrayed by the late “Killer” Joe Abby, who the KSWA honors with a tournament and the Hall of Fame night.]
After surgery, the bowler-hat-wearing bady guy returned home in late August and started to eat soft food. Busick said that the doctors, including those at the Weirton Medical Center Oncology Department, are “dumbfounded” by his progress. It’s not like the former police officer and high-risk security agent doesn’t have inspiration. His granddaughter Mila was born the last week in April. In addition, son Branko, continues on a boxing career.
His wife, Lorie Busick, has spearheaded a campaign for fans to show their “#BullyStrong” support by purchasing T-Shirts that express their “fight against esophageal cancer.” Busick’s Facebook page is filled with dozens of friends, from KSWA Heavyweight Champion Shawn Blanchard to Pittsburgh fitness and bodybuilding guru Sarah Wernert wearing the #BullyStrong shirt. Recently, fellow weightlifter Wade Johnson posted a video of himself squatting 455 pounds while wearing the shirt.
“I’m so grateful of the people that I don’t even know that have shown support,” he continues. “And the prayer involved. Prayer is powerful.”
In addition to the T-shirt fundraiser, Lorie Busick is helping to organize a charitable steak fry on Saturday, September 19 at the Serbian Picnic Ground on King’s Creek Road in Weirton. RSVP’s need to be tallied by September 12 so enough steaks can be ordered. The band Hillbilly Way will perform and a Chinese Auction will be available. Tickets are $30 each or $50 for a pair.
“I hope to get to the point where I can help others,” Busick added. “I have to resign myself to take it easy for now. A day at a time. I hope to be at least 80% of where I was.”
Busick also attributes his decades of strength training as instrument for “saving my life. There’s no other explanation.”
The Bully’s friends in the wrestling community have helped. He’s heard from wrestling journalist Bill Apter as well as the Iron Sheik. “Nikolai Volkoff has given me a ‘cancer free’ diet. I get a kick out of that.”
All of the support has motivated Busick to “keep going. Mentally, I am on track,” even on the darkest, most painful days.
“I will grow back the mustache as soon as I can,” he concludes with a hearty chuckle.