Cancer scare changes Davis for better
A year later, D-backs lefty can put life, baseball in perspective
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Doug Davis does not enjoy talking about himself and he most definitely would rather not discuss his emotions.
Yet, even Davis admits that things are different, he's different, than he was just one year ago.
Finding out you have cancer will do that to a person.
It was near the end of March last year, just before the D-backs were ready to break camp and head to Cincinnati for Opening Day that it was revealed Davis had thyroid cancer.
"It was scary at first, of course," the 33-year-old said. "But when I heard the success rate for this kind of cancer I felt better."
Davis wasn't the only one.
"It was very shocking," said Davis' teammate and friend, Brandon Webb. "It was scary. Then when he explained to us the chances of making a full recovery, it helped us."
Indeed, the form of cancer Davis had was very treatable. He made his first two starts of the regular season before undergoing surgery April 10. After that, Davis took a radiation pill and a thyroid replacement pill, but other than a little fatigue, he had no ill side effects.
That does not mean it did not have an impact.
"It helps remind you how minute [baseball] is compared to your actual well being," said Davis, who was 6-8 with a 4.32 ERA in 26 starts. "You can't do anything on the field if you're not healthy."
In conjunction with the D-backs, Davis last year started the 49 Fund, which helped raise money for families of children at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.
Davis also holds a yearly golf tournament that benefits St. Joseph's as well as SARC, which helps those with autism.
Prior to last year, Davis made plenty of hospital visits, but he now looks at them differently.
"To be able to visit kids in the hospital that have cancer, I get more out of that than I used to," he said. "Before I was kind of like, 'I don't really want to do it.' But after what I went through last spring, I knew somewhat what these people were going through. What I went through, though, is nothing compared to what these kids are going through -- chemo, losing their hair and the like -- it has to be very frightening for them."
Davis tried to shift his focus back to baseball almost immediately upon returning last year and said he was thankful the media did not badger him about the topic all the time. Even now he is somewhat reluctant to reflect too much on that time.
"It has changed me for the better," he said. "At the same time you want to keep your emotions out of the baseball world. If your emotions get the best of you in this sport you're going to fall. So I don't go to them during baseball. That's something you take home with you and talk to your family or maybe a couple of close friends on the team."
Davis is well liked in the clubhouse and is often the person who organizes golf outings or NCAA pools.
"He's an important part of our team on the field and off," Webb said.
How long he's a member of the team remains to be seen. Davis, who lives in the Phoenix area, is in the final year of a three-year, $22 million deal that he signed after coming over in a trade prior to the 2006 season.
This year he is scheduled to make $8.75 million, and if he gets his way, it won't be his final year wearing Sedona Red.
"I would love to stay here, I'll tell you that," Davis said. "I'm playing at home. I'm not out to break the bank. I don't care about the money so much, it's being around good people."
As of yet, there have been no talks between the two sides about a new deal.
"No, and I don't expect any right now," Davis said. "I know the economy is bad right now. I'm not expecting it. If I've got 10 wins by the end of the first half, then I expect something to come up. Right now, I really haven't proven anything. I'll just wait until mid year and see if I've earned their respect and get something thrown at me. I'd like another three years and retire."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.