SARASOTA, Fla.-- After a courageous fight of more than four years, Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow passed away Friday morning from lung cancer.
Barlow, 36, was a nonsmoker who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in September 2009, while training for a half-marathon after dealing with a cough that wouldn't go away. She continued to work throughout her battle, courageously becoming one of Major League Baseball's biggest advocates for the "Stand Up To Cancer" initiative.
"We lost a feather from the Oriole today," said manager Buck Showalter. "Monica embodied everything we strive to be about. Her passion, loyalty and tenacity set a great example for everyone in the organization. She was so courageous in continuing to do her job the last few years despite her pain.
"This is an especially tough day for those of us that worked with her on a daily basis. It was a blessing to have her in my life; she made our jobs so much easier. We won't be able to replace Monica, we will only try to carry on. I am going to miss her as a colleague and a friend. She was a rock."
Barlow graduated from William & Mary College in 1999 and served as an Orioles intern. She spent the next year as a PR assistant for the Richmond Braves (formerly Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate) before rejoining the Baltimore organization in January 2001.
"It was with deep sadness that I learned of Monica's passing this morning," said Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos in a statement released by the team. "In her 14 years with the club, she was a beloved member of the Orioles family, starting as an intern and becoming Director of Public Relations.
"Over the past four and a half years, the work Monica did to raise awareness and funds for cancer research was a testament to her dedication to helping others. The strength and resiliency she displayed by not letting her illness define her was a great inspiration to all who knew her.
"Her loss will be felt deeply by not only our front office staff, but also our manager, players and coaches, with whom she worked on a daily basis. On behalf of the club I extend my condolences to her husband, Ben; her parents, Wayne and Ramona Pence; her brother, Jonah; her sister, Natalie; and her family and friends."
Barlow, an Ellicott City, Md., resident, was also a spokesperson for LUNGevity Foundation, the nation's largest lung cancer-focused nonprofit organization. LUNGevity funds the most promising research for the early detection and successful treatment of lung cancer, and provides information, resources and a community to patients and caregivers. To learn more, go to www.lungevity.org.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.