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Thank you...and back to baseball

April 13, 2011
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From last July, my wife Heather, two kids Nick and
Aly and myself.
I wanted to take the time to write an update to thank everyone for the kind words and support, and to also provide an update with what is going on with me. Since what happens to me directly affects this site, I feel it necessary to share and be more open about what is going on.

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone from every part of my heart for the kind words and thoughts. I have been stunned at the e-mails, tweets, Facebook posts/messages, message board posts, and phone calls I have received from people all over. My friends and family have been wonderful through this ordeal, but it is my baseball family that has truly amazed me over the past several days with the flood of support. Everyone from people in the Indians front office, media, players, families, agents, scouts, fans, and so on. Thank you so much to the fans, my family/friends, and my baseball family.

As to what is up, things are a little more positive today than they were a few days ago. The situation is still pretty serious, but with all the doctor visits, tests, examinations, and so on in the past 96 hours I now finally have some answers, which helps me at least from a direction standpoint.

The way things stand now I am being treated for suspected renal (kidney) cancer. I say suspected because the urologists (kidney doctors) do not biopsy it to confirm whether it is malignant or benign until they remove it. About 80% of kidney tumors come back as malignant, and the 20% that come back as benign end up as cancer down the road 50% of the time, so this is why a biopsy is not important right now since no matter what the tumor has to come out. While the doctors cannot officially confirm it is malignant without the biopsy, they feel (after I prodded and said it was okay to guess) that based on their experience it has a very strong likelihood to be malignant from all the tests and pictures they see.

Things are moving quickly and I am scheduled for surgery next Thursday April 21st for what is called an open partial nephrectomy, which is basically a removal of a part of the kidney along with the tumor. This is good news as at the moment we plan on trying to save a large portion of the kidney rather than flat out removing the whole thing. The doctors believe that they can remove the tumor and not damage it enough to where they can save two-thirds of the kidney. This is great news, though there is the potential that problems may arise during surgery or that they are unable to save the kidney because the blood vessels are damaged where it would then mean they have to remove it during surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery is often used because it is minimally invasive where doctors make a couple of very small incisions and use fiberoptics and robotics of some sort to do the surgery; however, since my tumor is 5.8 centimeters (about the size of a softball) they really can’t do it this way since most laparoscopic surgeries are done on masses that are 4.0 centimeters and smaller. So I will be getting a nice big incision and opened up so the doctor can get in there and be able to better perform the three hour surgery to better ensure that he can save the kidney.

The good news so far is after chest x-rays and other scans, no lesions have been found elsewhere else so the alleged cancer has not spread (at the moment). This doesn’t mean I am home free as it could be in the blood and hidden only to the microscope, but doctors feel that since I will be checked regularly from here on out that if any issues arise they can catch it in time. There is a chance it could still be benign, which would be the best news possible, but I won’t find that out until a few days after surgery once tests have been done. I’m expecting it to be malignant, but the fingers are crossed it surprises and comes back benign.

So that’s where things stand at the moment. I’m still amazed at the whole experience as it still feels surreal.

I’m most amazed though at how quickly things have moved on the medical front. I went from going to the emergency room on Friday night for a stomach issue, to being right back in the hospital on Saturday for tons of tests and evaluation for the kidney, and then to seeing several doctors and surgeons on Monday and Tuesday for opinions and then scheduled a surgery. All that in the span of 72-84 hours.

The fact I am going to have surgery less than two weeks after being diagnosed with the kidney issue is amazing, and just shows how lucky I have been to come across some doctors who have gone above and beyond the call of duty (as well as some great connections). Kidney cancer is often not symptomatic until it is too late. I’ve had this tumor for probably a few years, and according to the doctor may have had it another 10-15 years before it showed itself. I haven’t been sick or in any discomfort, and by chance it was found because I went to the emergency room last Friday to get checked for an unrelated stomach issue.

I truly feel the emergency room doctor may have saved my life because he went far and beyond what was expected of him. Maybe he did not save my life today, but definitely five to ten years down the road. He specifically told me to come back to the emergency room and see him on Saturday morning as soon as he came back in so he could run tests and he also worked directly with the urologists to cut through the red tape and get me appointments first thing Monday morning to get the ball rolling. Because of him I am having surgery in less than two weeks rather than in two months. I am eternally grateful to him.

Even though I have a serious surgery coming, I feel blessed and lucky. Kidney cancer is probably one of the most curable of the cancers out there. Also, there is no chemotherapy or anything involved with the recovery process which is amazing. Just a lot of down time (about 6 weeks). And of course we caught it in time, at least it appears so.

So there is the update. I thought I would share it since so many have asked.

I don’t want to make this a running diary on the site so will refrain from posting more of this going forward and try to stick only to baseball. I’ll throw in a few addendum updates on me via Twitter/Facebook and in posts down the road plus maybe a post-surgery update, but going forward I am really looking forward to getting back to concentrating on baseball here on the site.

A big thanks to the guys like Jim Pete, Nino Colla, and Andrew Zajac for taking over posting duties for me on the site in the interim while I sort through all of this. Also a big thanks to the rest of the IPI staff for picking up the slack while I am out.

That said you can’t keep me down long, and I will be chiming in here and there over the next week and after surgery with updates. Possibly as soon as tomorrow with an abbreviated first edition of Minor Happenings. Also, at the moment I still plan to go to Columbus for the weekend to see some baseball.

Thanks again to everyone out there for their support, wisdom, and kind words. Some fans have even shared their own cancer experiences, which is amazing people would share such a personal story such as that with me. My hope is that through sharing some of what I am going through and about to go through, maybe it helps someone else down the road or is helping someone else who is currently going through probably the scariest moment in their life. I know I am pretty scared!

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).

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