October isn’t just a watershed start for MLB baseball, it’s a month to remember, and stand up for those who can’t in Cancer Awareness Month.
Unfortunately, with all the innovations in our society in the last 10, 20 and 50 years, there is one thing that has not been discovered – a complete and comprehensive cure for cancer.
It has affected our entire lives in one way or another. You may have family members or friends who have had cancer in some way, or you may have it. Major League Baseball is no exception. Each year, the MLB embarks on a tradition of “standing up to cancer” during the World Championships.
This season, FanSided spoke to a pair of players and a broadcaster about their battles with the disease and how they’ve won them. In some cases, they are not familiar names, but they should be. They persevered through the biggest battle of their lives and were an inspiration to others.
Cancer Awareness Month: Devin Smeltzer’s jug of twins and his story
Devin Smeltzer He spent parts of each of the last four seasons in the major tournaments with the twins. In 2022, he had his best season to date – 3.71 ERA in 15 games (12 starts). But his future wasn’t always certain.
When he was nine years old, Smeltzer was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called pelvic rhabdomyosarcoma. In layman’s terms, a tumor grew against his bladder which was attached to the prostate.
Earlier this season, Smeltzer spoke with FanSided about it.
“I was going to have a sip of water and after 10 minutes, I would have to pee,” Smeltzer said.
Smeltzer grew up in New Jersey, just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. “[O]Among my dad’s junior league teammates, his father was a pediatrician (St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia). So he dropped me off relatively quickly.”
To treat pelvic rhabdomyosarcoma, doctors “hit it hard” with chemotherapy and radiation. Smeltzer was diagnosed on August 5, 2005, and one year later, he was declared to be in remission. However, he still deals with side effects to this day.
“I’m going to have side effects from treatments here and there,” Smeltzer said. “I had some bladder bleeding issues. In 2017, I had that season and then that off season had surgeries to fix it, then I had some hormonal issues (last year).”
In 2021, Smeltzer only appeared in one match in the Major Leagues and did not appear in any minor matches due to the mentioned side effects and another unrelated injury. Originally, they thought he had an elbow problem, but this was actually a side effect of a herniated disc in his back.
“So we originally thought it was an elbow. But it turns out that the elbow was just a side effect of nerve problems from a herniated disc,” Smeltzer said. “And the hormonal issues are separate.”
However, coming out for almost the past year with an elbow and herniated disc has been a “blessing in disguise” as he has had to deal with the hormonal issues that arose from his cancer treatment.
Before Smeltzer debuted with the Twins in 2019, he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was a teammate in the minor league with third baseman Connor Joe.
Cancer Awareness Month: Rockies 1B / OF Connor Joe and his story
Joe made it into the majors himself with a different team in 2019, making his MLB debut with the Giants, but now he’s a member of the Colorado Rockies as the first baseman and defensive player. Joe had a cancer scare.
After making his MLB debut with the Giants, he returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed him in 2020 for a minor league contract at the invitation of Spring Training. Joe tried to make his way to the team’s MLB roster.
At the beginning of spring training, he received physical training, as all guys do at that time of the year.
“The doctor was really meticulous,” Joe told FanSided. “And I was a little frustrated just for how long it took. Then he went to the physical exam and felt something on my right testicle and said, ‘You know, it’s a tough spot.'”
Joe underwent more testing, including ultrasound, but the results “didn’t really cut and dry.” He then had blood tests for tumor markers and they were “very high”.
“I remember today as if it was yesterday,” Joe said. “Sitting in the doctor’s office and the doctor walked in at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale…he knew what I was trying to achieve that year. `Hey, there’s no easy way to tell you (but) all of your tests came back and everything was okay with you (stage testicular cancer)’ he said. third). And I mean, I was shocked. I felt so healthy, and I had a great season…but after that, my goals for this year completely changed.”
He felt he needed to be at home with his family (in Los Angeles) so he decided to seek treatment at UCLA, but then the COVID-19 pandemic spread.
He was with his wife Kylie and their dog but his parents were still able to participate, despite the COVID-19 lockdown. “My parents actually completely isolated themselves from their friends completely so they could help us through my weeks of treatment,” Joe said.
He received chemotherapy and treatment from Dr. Mark Litwin, who developed testicular cancer when he was just 18 years old. Joe managed to remove the tumor but it moved to his left lung as well. That took another four rounds of chemotherapy and another three months of recovery time.
Fortunately, Joe was declared cancer-free on July 20, 2020, a few weeks before the start of the MLB season with their truncated schedule.
Since then, fortunately he has not had any side effects.
Cancer Awareness Month: MLB anchor Jack Corrigan and his story
The man who announced all of Joe’s Rocky’s matches on the radio is Jack Corrigan. Corrigan has been in the big business for nearly 40 years – first starting to broadcast MLB games to the then-named Cleveland Indians in 1983.
2006 was a tough year for Corrigan, as was 2016. In 2006, he was skiing at the start of spring training and due to an accident, he tore his rotator cuff. As a result, Corrigan had to stop taking his medication due to atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. A few months later, while the club was in San Diego in July, he had two minor sessions on his way to Petco Park.
As Corrigan told FanSided in a conversation that lasted about 30 minutes, after broadcasting one game with a “massive migraine,” he reached out to the Rockies coach, Keith Dugger (who remains their head coach today).
Back home in Denver, “We were about halfway home. Corrigan said.” “And I thought I blew the top of my head, it was so painful.”
George Frazier, the team’s television colorist at the time, told Corrigan that he thought he should go to the hospital as soon as they arrived. Instead, Corrigan went home and went to bed. The next day, Rocky swallowed his pride and went to see his primary doctor, Dr. Allen J. Schreiber at Rose Medical Center in Denver.
At first, they thought he had a tumor, but later that day decided he had a stroke. Since then, with the drug, Corrigan has had no problems with it. This fear changed Corrigan’s entire mindset as it relates to medicine and disease prevention.
A decade later, the same doctor, Schreiber, gave Corrigan a physical before spring training, just as he does for the guys. His numbers were off, so he was sent to a urologist for a biopsy, as eight of the cultures taken were negative and four were positive. Other tests showed he had prostate cancer, but it was caught fairly early.
Fortunately for him, Corrigan was proactive this time around. Much of that was due to family history – his father had prostate cancer, and his mother and sister both had breast cancer. Corrigan, who turned 70 in September, was aware of this and, as he described, the genetic markers for both forms of cancer are very similar.
“(Dr. E. David Crawford, a famous urologist at the University of Colorado Health looked at me) and said to me ‘You know, you don’t have a chance to miss this.’ … He said that the similarities between breast cancer and prostate cancer are very close. Lots of markers. The genetics are so similar that in many ways the same disease is separated by sex.”
“So in the middle of the year — all-star break — they did this technique in which they developed the 3D mapping biopsy they took. The former urologist took dozens of samples. This 3D biopsy takes 125 samples and they basically make a 3D map. It’s pretty cool. It’s like a virtual prostate, if you will, and he showed things, so the four positive samples from the other, were really just a portion of one tumor.
It enabled him to have the operation because there weren’t many nerves or blood vessels to worry about. He did what’s called “cryoablation,” where they go in a circle around the tumor with needles and inject gas at minus 70 degrees Celsius and kill themselves by freezing them… the nice thing about that is that they don’t remove anything and a lot of times, you think men are reluctant to visit cancer The prostate must be removed completely or significantly. Well, you know… I was very lucky with that.
Four years later in June 2020 (during the pandemic), he’s back.
But again, due to regular checkups, they found it early. Just four years later, her treatment was much different.
Dr. Crawford developed (a new detection machine) that finds things that, in the old ways, you probably wouldn’t have found for many more years. At first, I was like ‘Well, are we doing the same cold again?’ He said, ‘No, that’s like throwing An atomic bomb on a small village.” Instead, he said, they recommended making the seeds, planting the radioactive ones. My wife (Lisa) goes Wait a minute, David. She told us four years ago, seeds weren’t the way to go. And he smiled at us and said, “Okay It shows you what’s happening in my business in just four years.”
“And while the epidemic stopped, I was able to drive for over a week because they have to map it and they are using a physical now because there are different levels of radiation and where they are placed to do what needs to be done. And I thought well, they put a few seeds now in the prostate blanket to make sure they They’re going to get anything that might be a potential problem.And so they’re loving you right now to let you know, some numbers for your PSA (prostate specific antigen test), there’s a serious concern that they would like it to be like one and a half is perfect.
Corrigan was last tested in January. His PSA test was 0.1, or “close to nothing”.
At the end of each of his broadcasts, Corrigan tells his male listeners to be proactive and to have a prostate exam. And that message saved at least one life, Corrigan said.
“I got an email. First of all, it was unusual, but I got an email early in the season. The first sentence for the guys says ‘I’m not a big fan of Jack Corrigan.’” I grew up listening to Bob Prince in Pittsburgh. “But I had to write to you,” he said, “because you saved my life.” Then in the next paragraph, he says, “I heard you do prostate cancer stuff all the time, so I went and had a scan and was in stage 2. The doctor told me that if I waited another three weeks, I would have been in stage three and probably would have had a lot of problems. So, if I got people like that, it’s more than worth the time people get tired of me saying it at every game because if I get home, it gets home.
“I wrote to him, and I said, ‘Hey, that’s the beauty of broadcasting, you get to decide who I like, I’m glad you listened. Because she helped you and your family. And I’m trying more now I’ll pay the family side of it.”
To men who hesitate to get a prostate exam, Corrigan has a clear message.
“You are married? You (children)? And can you take 10, 15 seconds for the test (it can save your life)? Control yourself.”
It could end up saving your life.