Dawson uses status to help fight prostate cancer
Hall of Famer preaches awareness after having disease diagnosed, removed in surgery
MIAMI -- In his 21-year big league career, Andre Dawson impacted games in so many ways. The man called "Hawk" made a difference with his power, speed and arm.
A five-tool player, Dawson has a rich list of accomplishments, including being an eight-time All-Star and an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner. He also has the distinction of winning the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 1987 NL MVP Award.
Topping his playing days off, Dawson's crowning achievement came in 2010, when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Clearly, Dawson was a game-changer. These days, the 58-year-old is doing his part to become a life-saver.
In his 14th season as a Miami Marlins special assistant, Dawson has embraced the role of raising awareness for prostate cancer. When it comes to the disease, he speaks from personal experience.
Diagnosed with prostate cancer during Spring Training in 2012, Dawson underwent a procedure called robotic surgery to remove his prostate last December.
Cancer-free, Dawson is using his role-model status to spread the word to others.
"If you can do something that is life-saving, that's what it is all about," the Hall of Famer said.
Each season, Major League Baseball uses Father's Day as a platform to help combat the potentially deadly disease.
Dawson, who turns 59 on July 10, is the father of two. His son, Darius, is involved in the game as a Marlins bat boy.
"That's what is most important: to be here as long as you can for your family," Dawson said. "You're not promised tomorrow. But if God gives you a way to try and get to tomorrow, that's what you take advantage of."
The way Dawson learned he contracted the disease was a blessing. Each year, all Marlins personnel are required to take a physical prior to the start of Spring Training. During his examination in 2012, blood tests revealed his PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) levels were up.
Dawson was advised to do additional testing. In the fall of last year, he saw a urologist and a biopsy detected the prostate cancer.
"When I found out, the next thing was addressing it, and what do I do going forward?" Dawson said. "I was given a couple of options. I wanted to pursue the options aggressively. I didn't want to do chemo, because I wanted the prostate out. I wanted to be confident knowing that it was out completely."
The robotic surgery was performed at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in December. A device called the da Vinci robot was used to perform the procedure.
"I wanted to be confident knowing that it was out completely, and that involved robotic surgery," Dawson said.
Once he had a handle on his situation, the former big league slugger wanted to do his part to help enlighten others.
With his celebrity status, Dawson was asked if he would be a spokesman to join the fight against prostate cancer.
"An individual in my shoes could be looked at in a different regard," Dawson said. "For me, it was a no-brainer. It was something I felt comfortable doing, but only when I was certain I was cancer-free. I think it's very important for both men and women to stay on top of the screening."
MLB raises awareness for breast cancer on Mother's Day, with players sporting pink bats, shoes and wrist bands.
For Father's Day, the same level of attention is given to prostate cancer. But instead of sporting pink, baseball brings out the powdered blue.
Dawson reminds men about the importance of screening.
"In particular, African-Americans are more subjected to prostate cancer, genetically," Dawson said. "Having gone through this process and knowing what it entails, you know this is a disease that may not take you out right away. There is a process with it."
The way Dawson sees it, awareness to the disease shouldn't be limited just to holidays like Mother's Day or Father's Day.
"Who wants to live with the idea of knowing you have cancer when you can do something about it and help prevent it?" Dawson said. "You can actually have it taken care of and be done with it. There should be more awareness.
"When you have a public figure, someone people you may look up to or aspire to be like, for them to share a story or an incident, you can do something that may be life-saving."