Mancini being treated for Stage 3 colon cancer

April 28th, 2020

Making his first lengthy public comments since undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his colon on March 12, Orioles star published an essay to The Players' Tribune on Tuesday detailing his fight with Stage 3 colon cancer, chronicling the events that led to his diagnosis and thanking friends, fans and teammates for the support he's received during this trying time.

In the essay, titled "I Am So Lucky," Mancini reveals he recently started a six-month prescription of chemotherapy treatment that would sideline him for the entire 2020 regular season regardless of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

"If baseball returns in 2020, it will probably be without me," he wrote.

Feeling sluggish and hampered by flu-like symptoms early in Spring Training, Mancini wrote that multiple blood tests revealed he had low iron levels. Given his age and lack of other health problems, Mancini said doctors told him he probably had either celiac disease (an immune disease of the small intestine) or a stomach ulcer. Though there was a family history of colon cancer -- Mancini's father, Tony, was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer in 2011 at age 58 -- Mancini said he considered it only "a remote possibility" at the time.

"We just thought I was way too young for me to have it," Mancini wrote. "It was my last concern. I was only 28. No way I had that."

But that is exactly what Mancini had. He underwent an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, which revealed a malignant tumor in his colon. Six days after the diagnosis, Mancini had the tumor surgically removed. This was March 12, the same day Spring Training was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A few days prior, Mancini, who hadn't played in more than a week, told his teammates what he was facing. Mancini began chemotherapy on April 13, almost exactly a month after the operation.

Mancini drives to a Baltimore hospital alone, due to safety precautions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, twice each month for a round. Mancini said he is scheduled for 12 treatments over the next six months, which would put his last treatment in late September.

Mancini expressed optimism that he will be able to return to the field sometime after that.

"I have no doubt that, even when I'm doing chemo, I can work out and do some things," Mancini wrote. "So, whenever the time comes for me to come back to baseball, I'll be ready. But I just want to make sure that I am physically fine before I go out there and start trying to perform again at a Major League level."

Mancini also thanked the Orioles' medical staff, and he wrote of the many who've reached out since news of his situation broke, including Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and 13-year-old Orioles superfan Mo Gaba, whose ongoing battles with cancer Mancini has supported for years.

"The 13-year-old kid with cancer calling me to make sure I'm OK? It blew me away," Mancini wrote. "I told Mo I was going to be fine. And then I told him we'd hang out again soon. That's a promise I fully intend to keep."

Sometimes, Mancini admitted, he has "bad days," where he "asks 'Why me?' Why now?'" But he makes more effort in the essay to emphasize how he's strove to maintain a positive outlook, despite the circumstances.

Mancini, 28, is coming off a breakout 2019 season during which he emerged as one of the American League's top hitters. The former eighth-round pick signed his first seven-figure contract this past offseason, and he appeared to be just entering his prime.

"I've got other things to worry about right now, though, and I know that," he wrote. "But still, every once in a while, I catch myself thinking ahead -- to when chemo is over, to when they remove my port, to when I can start going full-speed again. And I already can't wait for Spring Training."

As the essay made rounds on social media, several of Mancini's teammates made effort to promote it.

In a similar tweet, reliever Shawn Armstrong called Mancini "a brother, a teammate and a role model."