I was extremely fortunate to be able to play major league baseball. Thirteen years in the major leagues, two World Series rings, 4 all-star games and awards are all accomplishments I am proud of, but my biggest victory was beating cancer.
I was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1995 and played my first major league game for them in 1998. During the 1999 off-season, I was traded to the Florida Marlins. This was good news for me. It would be a season of opportunities to make my mark in the majors in the city in which I grew up.
But less than three weeks after the trade, after a routine physical I learned that I had testicular cancer. I was shocked because I never felt any pain or discomfort, and I was only 24 years old.
At first I was mad that the doctor found the cancer because it derailed my plans of achieving my childhood dream of playing professional baseball. Imagine that?
Cancer is a scary word. My grandmother passed away from cancer three years before I was diagnosed. After I had time to digest the fact that I had cancer, I remember thinking “Am I going to live or am I going to die?”
I will be honest and tell you that it was an extremely difficult time going through what I did, but if I would have waited things could have ended up being much worse. I am still to this day so very grateful that my cancer was found early. It eliminated the chance of having to endure more serious future complications.
My experience made me realize that I can focus on my career but that my health, family and friends need to be my biggest priorities. Making my health a priority is a no-brainer for me in some ways. But I also took my health for granted and never thought that cancer could happen to me.
A physical changed my life for the better. My cancer was found early and my treatment was easier because of it. I returned to baseball three months after being diagnosed. I was fortunate to have played for the Marlins for seven seasons and finished my career in 2010 after five seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
Your health can help you maximize your talents. Don’t neglect it and get your physicals. It makes a difference and can save your life.
- no noticeable changes; detected during annual physical