PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — He made a name for himself as a tough guy in the world of professional wrestling, but no opponent was as menacing as the one he faced after he stepped away from the ring.

Former WWE wrestler Nick “Big Bully” Busick has been battling cancer, but he recently returned to the squared circle to the cheer of local fans. KDKA photojournalist Dave Colabine followed his journey.

Busick had his first match in the Civic Arena and eventually made it to the WWE.

Busick says he was getting ready for a power-lifting contest “and then, boom, I had just a little trouble swallowing, and what happens? I get diagnosed with the big C.”

Cancer nurse Kelly Sikora says Busick was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and he was told it was going to be a tough road.

“It was a challenge like I never had before,” Busick said. “I had to go a day at a time. No matter what, you keep going, you stay motivated to beat this thing.”

Sikora says Busick wasn’t “supposed to” make it through chemotherapy to surgery. Busick says he was so sick he couldn’t get out of bed or even eat. He lost all his hair and went from weighing 265 pounds down to 187 pounds.

But Busick pushed through and has continued to stay active after his recovery. He says he has a mentality where he pushes himself too hard.

“Sometimes the Bully likes to go overboard,” veteran UFC fighter Branden Hinkle said. “Sometimes, like he said, we gotta reel him back sometimes.”

“So it was tough for him, for somebody who was so used to being so physically active,” Sikora said. “He went through a bout of renal failure. When I got his lab work back, I couldn’t believe that he was even standing.”

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“The Bully’s an inspiration. You know, he motivates me, seeing somebody who went through that and is still in here, banging weights and training hard,” Hinkle said.

Busick, who is a Keystone State Wrestling Alliance hall-of-famer, returned to the KSWA for an event, greeting fans who were glad to see him in good health.

“My father passed away over 8 years ago with esophageal cancer, the same type of cancer Nick is battling right now,” wrestling fan Gianni Martello said, later shaking Busick’s hand and telling him he was happy to see him healthy.

“It brings back so many memories. I mean, this is where I got my start,” Busick said.

“You know, I’m very fortunate to be here, so that’s why I want you guys to know from my heart, you welcoming me here means everything,” he told the crowd. “That’s not just words.”

“For the people who are fighting this dreaded disease, I want you to know, you keep the hope,” Busick says. “I don’t know if I’m going to make it or not. So far, I’m cancer-free.”

“He’s a walking miracle,” Sikora says.