BLOOMINGBURG, NY – It was recently announced that former New York Mets pitcher and current team broadcaster Ron Darling has thyroid cancer. From what I know, this form of cancer has a very high success rate. But what concerns me for Darling is the removal of a mass in his chest. Whatever the situation he faces, I like his chances based upon being an athlete and him drawing upon that experience in his recovery. Sports and competition and lessons learned have helped me overcome two Stage IV malignancies and this is today’s talking point in what Darling can use to his advantage in his cancer fight.
Competition and the will to win whatever I played bred a certain mentality. It’s not giving up, no matter what the circumstances. Darling played on that 1986 Mets World Series team that fought back when things looked bleak in Game 6 but the team found a way out of it. And it takes a team to treat cancer–from doctors to nurses to friends and family. No one ever goes it alone as a trust and confidence in your teammates is a necessity to recovery. A patient does their part by keeping a positive outlook and allowing his teammates to pull their weight.
Darling won over 150 games in his career and knows what it takes to be successful. Athletes have a regimen and routine they follow almost superstitiously. Familiarity breeds contempt for certain things and practicing keeps ballplayers sharp. Sports require a game plan and a preparation to detail as does cancer. Treatment becomes a game plan important to defeating a disease whether it be radiation, chemotherapy or surgery or a combination. These treatments become part of a routine and sure there are peaks and valleys the same way a pitcher works out of a no out, two on jam or sometimes cruises through a lineup. A toughness both mental and physical from playing sports fosters the ability to handle pressure. It teaches and almost forces the participant to adapt, adjust, overcome and respond. Bad days often lead to tougher ones in recovery the same way things unfold on the playing field at times. Rebounding and redemption are borne of these dark moments.
Athletes can gauge improvement through hard work and so does the cancer patient. It’s slow in coming and never fast enough for human beings but eventually happens. Scars tell a story and I’m sure Darling has had his share of surgeries from his playing days. The cancer patient gets battle scars as well and getting used to them is never easy but it’s part of that mental toughness to get over it. My life may be compromised but it sure as hell beats the alternative and I wouldn’t have been able to go through what I have without all the lessons learned by playing sports.
Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly has had his issues with head and neck cancer and is doing well today.
Lance Armstrong, even though disgraced in a doping scandal, overcame cancer.
While these are just a few examples, I will always believe that athletes are so much better equipped to beat cancer based upon their competitive experiences. As a former gambler, understanding odds have always come easy for me and I would often find a live underdog to wager on.
My money is on Ron Darling to beat cancer and return to the booth very soon.
That’s it for me. Come back tomorrow for Ben Whitney.