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Reds third-base coach Berry diagnosed with cancer

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds third-base coach Mark Berry has been diagnosed with cancer in his left tonsil and on two lymph nodes on the left side of his neck.

Berry, 50, left camp last week to undergo a surgical biopsy and some tests to verify the cancer diagnosis. After returning to the team on Sunday, he informed the players in the clubhouse during the morning meeting.

After speaking to the players, Berry went to the media workroom at the Reds complex and was pretty direct.

"I have cancer. I know it sounds bad, the word 'cancer,'" Berry said. "Plenty of people in this clubhouse have had it. I know people around the game that have beaten it. My sister had it and beat it. That part doesn't bother me.

"The good news was they did the PET scan from the waist up all the way up through my head and it was isolated to the left side of my neck only, which is a plus. My biggest fear was that it had spread to the chest, which it had not."

A survivor of prostate cancer himself, Reds manager Dusty Baker said the team would back Berry throughout his treatment.

"We just have to give him support," Baker said. "He's not looking for sympathy. We just have to support him as if he's one of our family, which he is. Mark is attacking it with aggressiveness and straightforward. ... This could happen to anybody in their family or our family here and you need support. I've been through it. Eric Davis has been through it and [head trainer] Paul Lessard has been through it."

Berry is still deciding on the course of treatment. His options appear to either be surgery or seven weeks of radiation at University Hospital in Cincinnati.

If Berry chooses the radiation route, he would have to limit his work schedule with the team. He would not be able to travel or attend day games at home since he would be getting treatment.

"I will be at home games for sure," Berry said. "What role that's going to be in is still to be determined, whether it's on the bench or at third.

Bench coach Chris Speier handled Berry's duties as third-base coach last week while Berry was out. On Sunday against the Rangers, Speier was back at third with Berry sitting on the bench next to Baker. Baker did not expect to limit Berry's duties as long as he feels up to working.

"It depends on how he feels," Baker said. "Sometimes you don't know you're sick until they tell you you're sick. If you think sick, then you're going to be sick. I'm not going to hold him back. If he doesn't feel well, there will be days he doesn't feel well."

Berry first detected something was wrong in December, but wasn't sure what he was dealing with.

"My left tonsil swelled up and was kind of red," Berry explained. "But I had a history of that when I was a kid. Most of us get a sore throat or whatever. You look in the mirror and it stopped. Two or three weeks went by and it never changed and I didn't get sick. In January, the thing that concerned me is I started playing with my neck and it was a little bit swollen and puffy. It felt like there were two marbles in my neck and they're still there. I'd play with them and like, 'Man, what the heck are those things?' They were the lymph nodes that had swelled up and hardened."

Needle biopsies taken in Arizona twice came back negative. But since his sister, Michelle, had the exact same thing happen to her, she recommended he undergo more aggressive testing. A surgical procedure was performed Wednesday in Cincinnati to remove some tissue from the left tonsil, which verified that Berry had cancer. He was told the cancer in his tonsil was the size of a small thumb.

"Now I know what I've got. Let's treat it and be done with it," Berry said. "I don't want to downplay it, but I'm not concerned. I have a good feel about it. I'm going to beat it, like lots of people in the game that did their treatment and moved on."

Reds medical director Tim Kremchek, who advised Berry to return to Cincinnati for the tests, was optimistic that Berry would have a good outcome.

"The bottom line is he caught it early rather than it spread," Kremchek said. "It was the smart thing to pursue it when he did that way rather than blow off the needle thing. It changes everything as far as his treatment and prognosis. He's going to be just fine."

Berry is in his 30th season in the Reds organization as a player, coach or manager, and he is in his 15th consecutive season on the big league coaching staff. The longest-tenured member of the staff, he has spent the past 10 seasons as the team's third-base coach. He is also the Spring Training and regular-season daily coordinator.

With the Reds in their final week of Spring Training, Berry will continue to work and await the results of another test to find out exactly the type of cancer he is dealing with. He will travel home with the club after the final Cactus League game and make his treatment decision.

Berry was eager to take the field with the team for Sunday morning's pregame workout.

"Now we grab a fungo and get to work," Berry said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon
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