Mancini: 'I fully expect to make a full recovery'

April 29th, 2020

The way Trey Mancini sees it, no matter how challenging these next few months are, this fight is not going to define him. Or change the fact that he’ll be back on the field before long.

“I fully expect to make a full recovery,” Mancini said on a video conference call on Wednesday from his home in Baltimore, where he’s undergoing treatment for Stage 3 colon cancer. “I have no doubt in my mind I’ll be back playing baseball.”

That return would come in 2021 at the earliest, no matter how baseball is ultimately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with Mancini prescribed six months of chemotherapy treatment. But there is precedent for ballplayers returning from colon cancer, notably Darryl Strawberry and former Orioles outfielder Eric Davis in the late 1990s. And Mancini fully intends to join that small fraternity.

“Even during chemo I am going to do everything I can to stay in shape, maintain my strength and then you have an entire offseason to get ready,” Mancini said. “I chose the treatment plan I did to reduce the risk of [side effects], because of baseball.”

One day after revealing his diagnosis in a first-person essay for The Players' Tribune, the Orioles star further outlined the strange, sudden circumstances that have become his new normal. Twice per month, Mancini throws on a mask and travels alone to a local hospital for chemotherapy treatment, of which he’s already undergone two rounds of three-hour infusions. This typically occurs on a Monday. On Wednesday, a nurse visits him at home to remove the chest port that’s dripped for upwards of 46 hours. Thursdays have been the toughest so far, Mancini said. They bring sluggishness and minor nausea.

“But by Friday, I’ve had my appetite back,” Mancini said. “Hopefully, it stays like that where it’s about three to four days of not feeling ideal and 10 days of feeling good.”

In between, Mancini has begun a light band/dumbbell regimen from his apartment and gone on the occasional run, with an eye toward maintaining as much weight as possible during treatment. He takes extra precaution when he occasionally must re-enter the world, aware of how chemo can drop red and white blood cell counts in the body, hampering the immune system. That and his necessary hospital visits put Mancini in a group of compromised people particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 during the global pandemic, which continued to result in a rise in hospitalizations in Maryland this week.

“I really have to be careful with all that,” Mancini said. “I am in the compromised group they talk about. I’ve done my research there and tried to minimize my risk.”

One safe, entertaining way to do so? Binge-watching “The Wire.” Mancini said he’s about five episodes away from completing the acclaimed Baltimore-based HBO drama.

“It’s really good. 'Breaking Bad' is my favorite show, but 'The Wire' is up there,” Mancini said. “Especially that it takes place in Baltimore is really cool. Now that I’m familiar with the city, to see where they filmed everything. It’s a really well done show. Maybe I’ll put my [writing] degree to use one more time and write a review of it when I’m done.”

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Most of all though, Mancini has used this time to focus on getting better and reflect on, from his perspective, how lucky he is. While he acknowledged it's “strange” to go through this during an unrelated national health crisis, Mancini called himself fortunate to have caught his cancer so soon prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, which forced hospitals to stop performing many other surgeries.

Mancini also expressed gratitude to the many who have reached out in support, from his father, Tony, a colon cancer survivor himself, to Orioles legend Brooks Robinson, superfan Mo Gaba and others. He said he wants to use his platform and story to raise cancer awareness and encourage other young people not to minimize the importance of routine blood testing.

Mancini first suspected something was amiss after he was feeling sluggish while completing defensive drills in February. Routine blood work revealed low iron levels, which led to an endoscopy and a colonscopy that found a malignant tumor in his colon. Surgeons removed the tumor on March 13, the day baseball was halted due to COVID-19. Six days later, Mancini was told three of his 23 lymph nodes tested positive for cancer, resulting in the Stage 3 diagnosis. This was the morning of his 28th birthday.

“Those of us who are in our 20s ignore going for normal checkups, because we don’t think anything is wrong -- none of us think it can happen to us and it can,” Mancini said. “It was definitely a wake-up call for me.”

For the Orioles too, the diagnosis was “shocking,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. But he also expressed optimism that Mancini would recover fully enough to suit up in black and orange again in the future.

“You see him and you hear from him, and he’s so upbeat and you see his strength, and his youth and his health and we all know it's going to be a matter of time,” Elias said. “But it’s tough for our organization and our team. We’re going through a really tough period and now we’re going to be without our best player for a while. I think it's going to make it all the more special when he gets back and it's going to mean a lot for us and the progress we’re making as an organization when Trey Mancini comes back to us.”