March 17, 2017
By BRANDON GOODWIN
Florida Atlantic Media Relations
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Cancer is a vicious and cruel demon.
In 2016, close to 1,700,000 cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States with approximately 600,000 people dying, according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute.
Every year, cancer impacts the lives of baseball players and coaches on the college level.
In mid-November of 2015, the Florida Atlantic University baseball team was taking part in its annual Iron Owl competition to test each player’s physical and mental strength.
One player, however, was unknowingly on the verge of going through the most difficult test one can imagine.
The pain catcher Kevin Abraham was feeling in his right arm was not the usual soreness that comes from playing 60 games in a season.
Abraham knew the pain was getting worse and spoke to Head Coach John McCormack and athletic trainer Andrew Calore about the abnormal discomfort he was experiencing.
“As a baseball player, you’re going to have soreness in your arm,” Abraham said.
“You don’t want to cry about it – you want to suck it up. But, it was getting worse and it wasn’t normal at all.”
Standard treatments didn’t soothe the pain, which grew worse each day, prompting Calore to schedule an MRI. While awaiting the results, Abraham began suffering daily fevers that grew increasingly worse.
The MRI showed a mass roughly the size of a baseball in Abraham’s upper arm. While wrapping up the fall season, the catcher was diagnosed with stage four cancer – specifically, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
“They told me I probably wouldn’t be able to play baseball ever again,” Abraham said.
“Hearing that as a 20-year-old, it hit hard.
“Taking away everything that you’ve worked for,” Abraham said, choking back emotions, “It’s a tough moment for you as a person.”
One initial option for treatment was to remove the bone housing the tumor, but Abraham awaited a biopsy and a second opinion.
“We were hoping it was just an infection,” he said. “Waiting on the results of the biopsy was the longest week of my life.”
When the result showed that the tumor was indeed malignant, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 215 pound Miramar native was prepared for the unsettling news.
“At that point, I was ready to fight what was coming,” he said. “No more tears, no more panic. I said ‘let’s fight’”.
Doctor Izidore Lossos, head of the University of Miami Lymphoma Program, put Kevin on one of the strongest chemotherapy treatments available, rather than opt for surgery, to combat the cancer. While preparing for his first treatment, Abraham relied on support from his parents, Crislayne and Jorge and Coach McCormack, who also is battling cancer.
“Mac was there the entire way,” Abraham said.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to be strong, you’re going to be okay. You’re a strong kid and you’re going to fight it.’ ”
Kevin knew that he would have to miss the 2016 season in order to fight his battle, and McCormack supported him, telling Kevin, “If baseball isn’t here for you this year, it will be next year. We’ll wait for you. Anything you need, we’re here for you.”
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who also faced lymphoma in his early career, reached out to Abraham. Rizzo was an FAU commit coming out of high school and his brother John was an offensive lineman for the Owls.
“Rizzo called and told me he went through the same thing,” Abraham said. “He told me I’d lose my hair and to live my normal life like I was living it before.”
To read more of this article, order the March 10, 2017 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It delves into how nasty the side effects of chemotherapy are, and what setback awaited him when he started the 2017 season.