06/28/2010 3:14 PM ET
Curtis: Beats cancer, debuts with Yanks
Rookie outfielder was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 15
I was 15 years old when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. We were in the car going to school, and I was experiencing discomfort, so I asked my mom to take me to the doctor. Within a minute of starting the checkup our family doctor said, 'Wow, we have a problem here.'
Before I knew it, I was on the way to nearby Seattle for more tests. After seeing a couple of doctors and undergoing another couple hours of tests, I was told I had cancer. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning.
Obviously, a lot of thoughts were going through my head at that point. I didn't know what was going to happen, I didn't know if I would be all right. At that age, I was obviously familiar with the word cancer, and I knew how serious cancer can be. I also had a general idea how many people it affected both in the U.S. and all over the world.
But when you're that young, you can be a little naive at first. I figured I was healthy on the whole and that this couldn't stop me. But at the same time, it was scary, and I was very scared. It really hit my parents the most, but they were really strong; they were really there for me along with my friends. That support group is what helped me the most. I knew I had a lot of people looking out after me.
Coming out of surgery, we didn't know right away whether it was a success or not. The doctor was great. He told me they had taken out the tumor, and they found that it had extended to the veins in my stomach area by my lymph nodes.
They said they thought they'd gotten it all but recommended chemo right away. But they also said I had the option to wait and find out before I started that chemo. We decided on the less invasive approach because they said they thought they got most of it.
So I would come back every week for CAT scans. I would have a lot of blood work, and I would take a lot of X-rays. Each week my blood levels were going down and my CAT scans were looking good. Eventually, I started to feel more relief and began to believe maybe we did get it all. Then I got to the point where I would got to the hospital every other week and get back to doing everyday stuff. Once I started getting back into my routines, I felt better about everything. I felt I had a pretty good chance of beating it.
During my recovery I received a special gift in the mail: A book and a note from Lance Armstrong. It was a great feeling to have someone like him reach out to me. It was pretty cool. I had always followed him and his career. The way he overcame his cancer was very inspirational. I still have the book.
It took me about three weeks after the surgery before I started playing baseball again. I wasn't experiencing any side effects, health-wise, and baseball was really important to me, so I started playing again. It gave me something to look forward to, and it helped me take my mind off the cancer. I used baseball as my escape that entire summer.
I've been able to keep playing baseball, and now to get to the big leagues for the first time this season is incredible. Playing for the Yankees has been a truly amazing experience. You look around the locker room and see All-Stars and guys who have won five world championships. It is such a storied franchise and to come up and to be part of it is special.
Right now, it's still very new. I'm just trying to play my part, to do my role, and to learn. As a young guy I'm fortunate to have so many more experienced guys here to learn from.
Yankees rookie outfielder Colin Curtis has been cancer-free for 10 years. The 25-year-old from Issaquah, Wash., was a fourth-round draft pick by New York in 2006, and he made his big league debut on June 21 before collecting his first hit one night later.