Updated: 03/24/2013 10:09 PM KSTP.com
(AP) GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Mark Berry’s conversation with his sister Michelle may have saved his life.
The Cincinnati Reds third base coach has been diagnosed with cancer on his tonsils and neck lymph nodes. The 50-year-old traveled to Cincinnati on Wednesday to have a biopsy of his lymph nodes, which was positive.
"I first noticed in early December. My tonsils swelled up," Berry said. "I hurt like a cold or a flu and I thought it was just that."
After two weeks Berry didn’t get sick but the pain persisted.
"Then in the beginning of January, the lymph nodes in my neck felt like small marbles. Around mid-January I went to see a doctor," Berry said. "Cancer was the last thing on my mind. We were going to spring training. We had an ear, nose and throat specialist examining us."
The specialist conducting the spring training physicals suggested that Berry have two needle biopsies. One was inconclusive and the other was negative.
Berry had a conversation with his sister, Michelle Gonzalez. His sister went through the identical scenario 15 years earlier.
"She told me not to be satisfied with the biopsies," Berry said.
Reds team physician, Dr. Timothy Kremchek put Berry in touch with Dr. Corey Casper of the University of Cincinnati/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance.
"Dr. Casper told me that he thought it originated in my tonsils," Berry said. "Wednesday they took enough of the tonsil to test it. Sure enough, the test came back and it was definitely cancer."
The doctors tested Berry from the waist up to make sure the disease hadn’t spread. They told him it was isolated in his lymph nodes, leaving two treatment options.
One is to remove the two affected lymph nodes and other lymph nodes to determine whether there is cancer in them. A second surgery to remove his tonsils would be performed.
The other option requires radiation for 35 consecutive days.
"I have talked to as many people as I can. There have been a lot of people in baseball that have been through what I’ve been through," Berry said. "I haven’t made the final decision yet. Either way, I’m going to be with the team through the 30th. I’m going to fly with the team back to Cincinnati. I will make a decision and get something started during the first homestand."
Berry, who has been in the Reds organization for 30 years as a player, minor league manager and coach, told the team Sunday.
The native of Oxnard, Calif., intends to stay with the team at least for home games. He will miss some trips especially early in the season.
Berry has been third base coach since 2003. The Reds have not decided whether he will continue in that capacity or move to the bench on manager Dusty Baker’s staff.
"I told the team there is nothing to hide or be embarrassed about. This is a common occurrence," Berry said. "If anyone wants to talk about it, I would be happy to do it. I will share my story with anybody. It might help someone else that has symptoms. My sister had it 15 years ago, and she’s fine. It was good to have her to lean on."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)