As a Hall of Fame baseball player who endured 12 knee operations during his 21-year career and two knee-replacement surgeries after it was over, Andre Dawson has always felt confident he could overcome any health challenge thrown his way.
Beating prostate cancer turned out to be another curveball Dawson was able to knock out of the park.
With his doctor at his side, the 58-year-old Miami native and special assistant for the Marlins revealed Thursday that he underwent robotic surgery in December at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to remove a cancerous prostate gland — and that he is now cancer-free.
Dawson’s goal now is to raise awareness about the importance of paying attention to PSA levels (Prostate-Specific Antigen) and how getting tested routinely can help doctors catch the cancer early and save lives.
“I’m not a lights-and-camera guy, but if I can make an impact for mankind, if it can help in any way, save anybody’s life, this will be worth it,” said Dawson, who was first informed that his PSA levels were high after taking a routine physical with the Marlins staff in February 2012 but didn’t see a doctor until after the season in October.
“Now, I know what the experience is,” he said. “I had relatives pass from prostate cancer. If I can help someone go through the stages of it and be instrumental in helping them live, then it’s really worth my while.”
Dr. Dipen J. Parekh, chairman of the Department of Urology and Director of Robotic Surgery at Sylvester, performed the surgery using the da Vinci robot at the center — two months after meeting with Dawson and performing the biopsy, which shook the Hall of Fame outfielder when he was told of the results.
“I said I want the cancer out of my body,” Dawson said. “I told him I want the prostate out. He smiled at me and said, ‘You’re going to do well, you’re going to be fine.’ But I was scared to death. When you think of cancer, you start thinking about how much time you have left because you never know.”
Dawson said that he lost 22 pounds in 2 1/2 weeks following the surgery.
But he said he has gained most of it back while getting back in shape.
His last blood test — performed during spring training — showed his PSA levels at less than 0.1, he said.
“That’s near perfect and cancer-free,” Dawson said.
Dawson said he’s supposed to go back for another blood test in six months.
In the meantime, he plans on spreading the word about prostate cancer.
During spring training, Dawson spoke to Marlins minor-league personnel about his battle and said the testimonial made him feel more comfortable about sharing his story publicly.
“You live in this world long enough, you never know what you’re going to encounter,” Dawson said. “As much as I work out, it’s really irrelevant. Once you are afflicted by whatever, it kind of opens your eyes to the fact you’re a human being and anything can happen at any time.
“I’ve always been humble, but this made me even more so. I hope me sharing my story can make an impact on others.”
This and that
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, out since April 17 with a right elbow contusion, is expected to be ready to go when his stint on the disabled list is up May 2. Hechavarria said he played catch from about 70 feet Wednesday and felt good. He took grounders with the team Thursday. Manager Mike Redmond said the Marlins plan to play Hechavarria at Single A Jupiter next week before he returns to the lineup.
• Right-hander Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder inflammation) will throw a 45-pitch simulated game Saturday, and the plan is to start him with a 60-pitch game next Thursday in Jupiter.
• Catcher Jeff Mathis, out since early in spring training with a fractured right clavicle, is hoping to participate in his first rehab assignment Wednesday, Redmond said.
• The Marlins claimed left-hander Duane Below, 27, off waivers from the Detroit Tigers and optioned him to Triple A New Orleans. Below threw 46 1/3 innings in 27 games with one start for the Tigers last season. The 6-3, 220-pounder was 1-2 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts at Triple A this season. In 25 2/3 innings, he has 15 strikeouts and four walks.
• Friday: Marlins LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-3, 6.27 ERA) vs. Chicago Cubs RHP Scott Feldman (0-3, 4.50), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Alex Sanabia (2-2, 5.09) vs. Cubs LHP Travis Wood (1-1, 2.08), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Scouting report: LeBlanc is looking to snap a six-game losing streak dating to last August. Feldman has never faced the Marlins.