NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow owes her life to cancer research.
"I'm literally alive because of lung cancer research," said Barlow, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in September 2009 and switched to her second clinical drug, LDK378, when a scan done last month showed growth again.
"The five-year survival for lung cancer is horrible, it's like single digits," said Barlow, who is a big supporter of the Stand Up To Cancer initiative, with her doctor part of one of the organization's "Dream Teams" and afforded grants to help further research. "I'm fortunate to have this mutation, because that's one area of lung cancer where they are making giant strides in drugs. The drug I am on now didn't exist two years ago. I had cancer for a year and that drug did not exist. That's why I'm so passionate about raising awareness, because it absolutely [helps]."
This year's Winter Meetings include an MLB.com Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer, which MLB has supported since 2008 as founding sponsor. Public relations representatives from all 30 clubs were inspired to act based on individual club members impacted by the disease, and they jointly organized the auction and announced it Monday in Nashville with MLB staff. Bidding closes at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday, with more than 70 baseball-related experiences, ranging from clubhouse tours by players to lunches with general managers to team bus rides to meet-and-greets with 14 Hall of Fame players.
The Orioles are offering three items in support of the cause, with an opportunity for two fans (one must be 21) to ride the team bus to Washington, D.C., for a road game and back, be on the field for batting practice and get two tickets to the game. There is also a chance to spend a day at Spring Training (also must be 21), with the winner getting to eat breakfast with Orioles players, dress for workout, take batting practice, eat lunch with players, exchange lineup cards, sit in dugout and serve as batboy/girl for a Spring Training home game. The third auction item is catcher Matt Wieters' game-worn playoff helmet, from the team's away postseason games, which will be signed by all returning members of the 2012 club and presented to the winner following January's FanFest.
"There's a huge stigma against lung cancer, specifically," said Barlow, a 35-year-old non-smoker who had 40 percent of her liver removed in May. "The first question I get is, 'Did you smoke?' And I'm like, 'No, but even if I did, does that mean I deserve to die from cancer?' It's just frustrating.
"To be able to have hope and have options in treating it, that's why cancer research is so important."