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Q&A: Bettis on cancer, recovery, return to Rox

MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

Rockies starter Chad Bettis has had a wide range of emotions in the past year.

Bettis has enjoyed the birth of his first child, but between learning of his wife's pregnancy and the birth of their daughter, he was diagnosed with cancer not once, but twice. He first learned of his testicular cancer last November, and he was told it had spread in March.

Rockies starter Chad Bettis has had a wide range of emotions in the past year.

Bettis has enjoyed the birth of his first child, but between learning of his wife's pregnancy and the birth of their daughter, he was diagnosed with cancer not once, but twice. He first learned of his testicular cancer last November, and he was told it had spread in March.

Bettis rejoined the Rockies earlier this month and has continued his rehab. He had a chance to see Pirates starter Jameson Taillon recently make his first start since dealing with testicular cancer himself.

Bettis discussed his experiences in this week's Q&A with MLB.com.

MLB.com: What has the last year been like?

Bettis: It's been a whirlwind. My perspective has definitely changed, and I think for the better. I think going through everything that I have with my wife and my family -- and bringing a baby girl into this world -- it's been up and down for sure. But it's definitely looking up.

MLB.com: When last season ended, you must have been thinking you proved you could pitch in the big leagues. Your wife is expecting your first child. Life is wonderful, right?

Bettis: Yes. Then I am diagnosed, and it was a big blow. Part of that goes to an athlete's mentality of being a little bit invincible.

MLB.com: And you know your wife is expecting.

Bettis: Finding out initially my wife was pregnant, it was already a blessing. But then it became tenfold, because it was like [my daughter] was already helping me before she was even born. We caught the cancer when we went for a regular checkup. The doctor that we're seeing asked my wife if she had been doing self-exams to make sure nothing was happening. I was thinking, "I've never done a self-exam." The next night, I found the lump. It was like my daughter was already helping me before she was born.

MLB.com: It must have been special for you to be with the Rockies when they were in Pittsburgh and Taillon returned from testicular cancer earlier this month.

Bettis: I talked to him about how he was able to handle it, and also calm his emotions down. I asked him what that experience was like. He said, "It is like your debut, but more so, because you feel like you're back. You also know that you overcame something that young men shouldn't have to, and you know, as hard as it is." He said it's nice to be back with his teammates and out on the mound again and getting back to the routine of life.

Video: Bettis discusses reaching out to Taillon about cancer

MLB.com: Last November, you learn you have testicular cancer. What's the reaction?

Bettis: It was "Oh my God." It was something you never expect to hear. It wasn't so much the testicular part. Just the cancer threw me for a big loop. You never think of getting cancer in your late twenties. It was hard for it to sink it, to hear the doctor confirm I had cancer. Without the support system that I have, I don't know how I would be doing today, mentally.

MLB.com: You go from looking to build off a solid 2016 and then that happens.

Bettis: It is something that you can't be prepared for. I had a lot of goals set for this year, and beating cancer wasn't necessarily one of them. But it turned to that really fast.

MLB.com: And then there is the birth of your daughter.

Bettis: We found that out during last season, so we knew going into the offseason her due date was going to be late March. The stressful thing was in the spring, when they found the cancer had invaded my lymph glands, and we started the chemo, it was March 20, the day I started treatment, and her due date was March 29, but you don't know for sure. And you wonder if you will be there for the birth. You wonder if you are going to be able to hold your baby daughter. You don't think about how much that means until you don't know if you will get that opportunity.

MLB.com: And I'm sure finding out the cancer had spread surprised you.

Bettis: We first got that initial results back in December, saying that my tumor markers have gone down and, essentially, it was cancer-free, but we need to keep monitoring it. It was like, "Perfect, I get to pursue my normal life and go about the business of getting prepared for the season, but also get prepared to become a father." It was really exciting, and then when we found out that I was going to have to go through chemo, I was taken aback. In the back of your mind, you are thinking it was over. You hang your hat on your blood work. But I learned different. I found out it had come back, but it wasn't in my blood.

MLB.com: How did they discover the original cancer?

Bettis: When you think about it, you think there must be pain, but it wasn't painful. I didn't feel weak. I felt normal. There was just a little bump on my testicle. Nothing else. Trying to figure out what the bump was, we had preliminary blood work and a CT scan. When my blood work came back, it showed a tumor marker. Once I had the surgery, it was never found again in my blood work.

MLB.com: So you were fine working out, getting ready, getting in shape in the early days of Spring Training, and out of nowhere there is cancer detected in the lymph glands?

Bettis: I found out that I was going to have to go through chemo right before my Spring Training first started. Going through it, it's definitely not only changed my perspective for baseball, but for life. I'm just so grateful to be here every day.

MLB.com: Now we're nearing the end of June, and your focus is back to getting healthy? You've been given a clean bill of health?

Bettis: Right. My concern was whether I would have a major weight change, and the possibility of neuropathy in my fingertips or my feel. We came up with a plan for a minor dosage, so [neuropathy] would not be a side effect, and I never lost my appetite. The only thing that I'm working to get back is my stamina and endurance.

MLB.com: Do you have a timetable for a return?

Bettis: We have a timetable that right now is through July 1, when I'll throw 45 pitches in a bullpen, and we'll see what's next. Right now, I feel great. I threw a 20-pitch bullpen [Wednesday], but I felt like I could've easily have thrown 30. My body's recovering, which is nice, and so I think we're just going to stay the course and keep going, hopefully not have any setbacks.

MLB.com: Careful not to push too much?

Bettis: Yes. If it was up to me, I really wish that I could be at 35 pitches, and then in the next bulk 45, and the next, who knows. That is how I've always been. I want to push the envelope. But at this stage, we need to really be smart and take care of my body for longevity of my life, not just my career.

MLB.com: Priorities change a little bit when you go through this.

Bettis: One hundred percent. I want to be there every day for my family, and not only for them, but for my teammates as well.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

Colorado Rockies, Chad Bettis