Billingsley's wife cancer-free, couple thanks Phillies
Amaro helped fast-track initial doctor's appointment in April after Tiffany's diagnosis
PHILADELPHIA -- All things considered, Chad Billingsley and his wife, Tiffany, are feeling incredibly blessed these days.
Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, they will show appreciation for everything good that has happened to them since March. While Chad has worked to return to the mound following a pair of right elbow surgeries, Tiffany has been quietly going through rounds of chemotherapy to beat a rare but aggressive form of cancer called gestational choriocarcinoma.
The couple happily reported that Tiffany has been clear of cancer since last month. She will finish her final treatments in a few weeks.
"There were so many things that went right in this process," Chad said Tuesday.
"It's like the Lord knew we had to be home," said Tiffany, who is from Reading, Pa.
The Billingsleys, who will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary in November, are hosting 100 members of the oncology staff at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where Tiffany has been receiving her care. The group includes two of her doctors -- Russell Schilder and Norm Rosenblum -- and her nurse practitioner, Amanda Jackson.
The Billingsleys' lives turned upside down in late March. Following a miscarriage, Tiffany, 31, was diagnosed on April 1 with gestational choriocarcinoma, which is the malignant form of gestational trophoblastic disease. According to cancer.org, GTD is a group of rare tumors that involve abnormal growth of cells inside a woman's uterus.
The cancer affects about two to seven of every 100,000 pregnancies in the United States. It is aggressive, but treatable, if detected early. Tiffany had no luck finding a doctor who could see her immediately.
Two weeks, one hospital said. Three weeks, said another.
"I had to pitch that next day," Chad said. "I was a mess. I ended up talking to Ruben [Amaro Jr.]. He was on the ball right there. By the time I finished my start, we already had an appointment set up at Jefferson for the following Tuesday [April 7]. It was a big relief."
"I may not even be alive today if it wasn't for the Phillies," Tiffany said. "They've been unbelievable. We've never felt so part of a family, and we're new."
Tiffany started first-level chemotherapy April 8, but her hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) numbers continued to increase. Her cancer tripled in one week, reaching her lungs.
"Is she even going to be alive?" Chad recalled thinking back then. "Are we past the point where chemo can help?"
Tiffany eventually started five-drug chemotherapy. She responded well.
Chad said he contemplated putting his baseball career on hold because the treatments were so harsh on Tiffany, but she said she needed him to pitch.
"We need normalcy," she said.
"It was good for me to pitch," Chad said. "If it distracted me for a half hour, it helped. It was a good escape."
"Imagine what it would have been like if he hadn't had that, and this was the only thing we thought about," Tiffany added.
Fortunately, by mid-July, doctors detected no cancer.
"I would never share any of this with anyone, but the Phillies and Jeff have been so fantastic," Tiffany said. "We wanted to say thanks."
"It's about thanking them publicly for having my wife here today," Chad said. "What they've done is unbelievable."