Chad Bettis will take the mound for the Colorado Rockies Monday night for the first time this season. It’s a big game for the Rockies, as is every game while the Rockies fight to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2009. But it’s an even bigger game for Bettis, who will step foot on a major league mound for the first time since surviving two separate bouts with cancer.
Bettis’ saga began last November when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. For a 27-year old professional athlete poised to enter the prime of his career, receiving a cancer diagnosis must have felt like a punch to the gut. On top of that, his wife was just a few weeks away from giving birth to the couple’s first child.
In early December, Bettis underwent an orchiectomy to remove the cancerous testicle. Having been diagnosed and treated during the offseason appeared to be a silver lining for Bettis. Most patients make a full recovery from the surgery in two to four weeks, giving Bettis plenty of time to recover and prepare himself for the start of spring training in February.
Unfortunately, Bettis made just one start during spring training before the dreaded C-word reared its ugly head once again. Bettis had been given a clean bill of health in late February and was gearing up to be one of the leaders of Colorado’s starters this season. However, less than three weeks later, Bettis was told that his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. The recurrence of the disease forced him to the sidelines in the middle of spring training so he could undergo chemotherapy.
At the time, Bettis said that if his doctors had not been proactive in examining him, the cancer in his lymph nodes would not have been found. He was given a 90% chance of making a full recovery, but receiving a second cancer diagnosis in the span of a few months could not have been easy.
Bettis brought the right attitude to his treatment. He knew after being diagnosed with cancer the first time that the disease moving to his lymph nodes was a possibility, so he was prepared. Moreover, as a pitcher who has spent his entire big league career in hitter-friendly Coors Field, he’s accustomed to dealing with adversity and bouncing back. Bettis lost his hair, but he kept up his strength better than most cancer patients. He was able to be at his wife’s side when their daughter was born and he was even able to throw a baseball in between treatments.
When Bettis beat cancer the second time around, he was eager to get back on the mound and return to the Rockies before the end of the season. After 23.1 innings across six minor league outings, Bettis is ready to return to the major leagues and rejoin a team that appears bound for the postseason.
Last season, Bettis led the Rockies with 14 wins. He was expected to be one of the leaders of Colorado’s rotation this season. However, a slew of young pitchers has surprised all of baseball, putting the Rockies on track to claim a wild card spot. Bettis figures to be a supplemental part of Colorado’s rotation, an ancillary piece to the young starters who have performed so well this season.
Thanks to early detection, a positive attitude, and the drive to return from two separate bouts with cancer, Bettis is set to return to the mound Monday night as both a major league pitcher and a cancer survivor, two exceptional accomplishments.