Baseball means more to KC's Farrell

Righty: Return to game was 'light at the end of the tunnel' amid tumor ordeal

March 9th, 2017

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Not that long ago, Royals right-hander wondered if he would ever play baseball again.

It has been a long journey for Farrell, a sixth-round pick by Kansas City in the 2013 Draft and the son of Boston manager John Farrell.

Back in 2009, in the summer following his senior year of high school, Luke Farrell was at the dentist's office for an examination when the dentist noticed something irregular in the back of Farrell's throat. The dentist advised him to get it looked at by a physician.

Farrell didn't think a whole lot of it until he began feeling some unusual pressure in the area a short time later.

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"But I had nothing to compare that sensation with," Farrell said, "so I didn't know what it was."

Farrell got it looked at, and a disturbing diagnosis followed: He had a golf-ball-sized tumor in his upper throat. The good news was that it was benign. The bad news was that it was frightfully near his carotid artery.

"It had to be taken care of," Farrell said.

But as the surgeon delved into the procedure to remove the tumor, he kept running into complications trying to get near it because of its proximity to the artery. One thought was to go through Farrell's jaw (which would have had to been broken first) to get near the tumor, but that idea was nixed.

The surgeon finally gave up after Farrell had been on the operating table for over six hours, and sewed Farrell back up.

"That's when they brought in a team of surgeons to consult," Farrell said. "They were able to find a way to get it out, and they removed it.

"And at that point, they told me that tumor wouldn't come back in a hundred years."

But within two years, Farrell said he was right back in the same office. With the same-sized tumor.

"But the second surgery went well, too," Farrell said. "And this time they used photon radiation to make sure it was completely killed and wouldn't come back."

The ordeal of radiation caused some paralysis for Farrell, who then had trouble speaking and swallowing for months. He went on a liquid diet and lost 25 pounds.

But Farrell, 25, made it through all of that and back to baseball. Last summer, he celebrated his five-year milestone of being tumor-free.

"That's a big milestone," he said, smiling.

The experience put matters in perspective. And as fate would have it, it also put him in a unique counseling position with his father, John, when John was diagnosed with Stage 1 Lymphoma in 2015.

"That was kind of a new dynamic for our relationship," Luke said. "Him going through lymphoma, having something so aggressive. We bounced ideas off each other and compared and contrasted. As horrible as the time was, it was a new part of our relationship."

They both have survived, they both have each other, and they both have one more thing to fall back on: baseball.

"It served as the light at end of the tunnel," Luke said of his experience.

Ferrell, just recently reassigned to Minor League camp, has risen quickly through the Royals' system and was 6-3 with a 3.76 ERA at Triple-A Omaha last season.

"Dayton [Moore] went to look at him pitch last summer," manager Ned Yost said, "and he came back and told me, 'This is someone who is going to help us one day.'

"Luke has a great slider, a big league slider. And judging by all he's gone through, he's got grit. That's our kind of player."