Reyes reveals daughter is battling cancer
Aleyka Reyes, who turns 2 next month, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at five months old
ST. LOUIS -- The tears came streaming down Alex Reyes' face again last week, already too many for a career so short. In the car ride back from another orthopedic office, Reyes sobbed at the harsh reality of what lies ahead: another operation, another six weeks in a sling, another season ripped away.
All the while, another person's plight weighed heavily on his mind, as it has throughout much of his big league career. Speaking publicly for the first time since undergoing surgery to reattach a tendon in his right lat last week, Reyes disclosed a devastating detail on Tuesday that he's held privately more than a year. His young daughter, Aleyka, is battling cancer.
"I felt like, if my daughter fought for her life, I can fight for my career. That's pretty much what's been in my head," he said.
Reyes said doctors diagnosed his daughter with neuroblastoma -- a rare cancer that forms in certain nerve cells of infants -- when she was 5 months old. Aleyka's were found in her heart. Her recovery -- palpable but not yet complete -- has run largely concurrent with his, first from Tommy John surgery and now from a lat tear. Aleyka and her mother, Diana Guerrero, lived in St. Louis last year while Reyes rehabbed with the team. Reyes' mother, Dignora, also flew in frequently from New Jersey to help care for Aleyka, who will turn two next month.
Reyes said her tumors are "getting smaller."
"It's been a long road for the both of us," Reyes said. "I've been handed a tough deck of cards. I'm fighting."
It's with this as a backdrop that Reyes flew back to the East Coast following his surgery last week in Philadelphia. He's spent little time in his hometown of Elizabeth, N.J., since moving to the Dominican Republic at age 17 to pursue his baseball career. The Cardinals signed him in 2012, and he skyrocketed through their farm system in the years that followed. Aleyka was born two months before his electrifying MLB debut in 2016. She was diagnosed two months before he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow the following spring.
"Just kind of getting away from the field a little bit and remembering some things are more important in life," Reyes said, after returning to St. Louis on Tuesday.
He will rehab with the team again this summer as he did last. Reyes leaned heavily on the support of his veteran teammates during that time, especially Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Zach Duke -- all starters who had undergone the same procedure. There are far fewer examples of those who have suffered his latest injury. Though Jake Peavy and Noah Syndergaard have undergone high-profile lat repairments in recent years, club officials have been hesitant to compare them to Reyes'. But Reyes said the lessons he learned last summer are not injury-specific.
"Focusing on living in the present and being patient," he said prior to his season debut in Milwaukee last month. "Understanding it wasn't going to come over night. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel."
It's a mindset applicable once again. Reyes will keep his arm immobile for six weeks, and eschew from throwing for four months. Doctors are hopeful he can return to a mound near the end of the year.
"It just sucks. I said that when I went down with Tommy John, and this one is probably a little harder," Reyes said. "Whatever my career puts in front of me I'm going to attack it and I'm gonna try and get myself 100 percent no matter what. Hopefully I'll be back in this clubhouse next year and this will all be behind me."