Friday, March 28, 2003

Baylor says cancer won't
keep him off bench

The Associated Press

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - New York Mets coach Don Baylor has been diagnosed with cancer in his bone marrow but hopes the chemotherapy treatments won't cause him to miss any games.

"I know what I have to do and I plan to do it," Baylor said Thursday. "It's a good time to get it done and get it behind me. It's treatable, so why not treat it now?"

Baylor, 53, will undergo four days of oral and intravenous chemotherapy beginning Tuesday - the day after the Mets open the season against Baylor's former team, the Chicago Cubs - to treat the multiple myeloma. The treatment will be repeated once every 28-to-36 days as initial therapy.

"There's a fairly high upfront success rate, somewhere in the vicinity of 60-70 percent," Dr. John Olichney said about the possibility of complete remission. "The problem is that there are recurrences."

Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was diagnosed with the same type of cancer in April 2000. Stottlemyre underwent stem cell replacement and missed the final three weeks of the regular season and the postseason. Doctors will use Baylor's stem cells for his treatment.

"My family will give me comfort but I have to do this alone," Baylor said.

Stottlemyre returned to the team the next spring and still is the Yankees' pitching coach. Baylor talked with Stottlemyre about his experiences.

"He had a lot of questions," Stottlemyre said in Tampa. "I suggested to stay busy if he can do it. I think what I've done is probably the best solution to keep your mind free. There's been advances. I assured him things are better today than three years ago in the application of chemo and that sort of thing. He sounded very positive, which I think he needs to be. One of the good things about him as intense a competitor he was, he's the right type of person to go through it."

The stem cells can be taken out, separated from the blood and frozen, treated, and given back at a later time. The treatment tries to reduce the malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow so doctors can remove the healthy cells and give then high doses of chemotherapy before giving Baylor back his own stem cells.

The cancer was detected as a result of spring training physical last month and an examination determined Baylor had an abnormal monoclonal protein. He underwent bone marrow tests in New York on March 12, and the tests determined he had an overgrowth of abnormal white blood cells in the marrow.

Baylor told the team Thursday. Olichney agreed that the chemotherapy wouldn't hinder the former Cubs and Colorado manager at the start of treatment but said it might cause him to miss some road games as the therapy progresses.

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