“I’ll never forget the feeling in the pit of my stomach and in the depths of my heart when I first heard the word cancer. My world ground to a halt.” Dave Dravecky
David Francis Dravecky was an effective left-handed pitcher from Youngstown, Ohio. In his second season in the Major Leagues, he won 14 games for the San Diego Padres. In the following year’s 1984 World Series, he pitched ten and two-thirds scoreless innings. Traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1987, he pitched a marvelous shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in game two of the National League playoffs.
Dravecky’s life in baseball was wonderful, until 1988. On September 19th, Dr. George Muschler informed Dave that a lump in his pitching arm appeared to be cancerous. A biopsy confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis, and on October 7th, a malignant tumor of the deltoid muscle was removed. Over the next few years, the cancer resurfaced, and ultimately, the arm was amputated. Dravecky’s days of pitching balls was over, but he commenced in pitching something new.
In the spring of 2000, my wife and I purchased tickets to attend Harding Academy’s Esprit de Corps at the Peabody Hotel. The Esprit de Corps is an annual fundraiser for the school, and that year, Dave Dravecky was the key-note speaker. The afternoon of the event, my wife received a phone call from Florida, and she was asked to come home. Her father, Sam Campbell, had been diagnosed with kidney cancer, and he was about to undergo surgery at the Mayo Clinic.
As she flew out of the Memphis International Airport, I was in no mood to celebrate, but I went on to the dinner. With a heavy heart and not wanting to speak with anyone before the program, I waited in the lobby of the hotel. As I waited, a gentleman walked up to me and started a conversation. As we made small talk, I could tell that he knew that I was sad, for he did his best to cheer me up. As he walked away, I noticed he was missing his left arm.
Later that night, I heard this one-armed man share his personal experience of suffering, loss, and saying goodbye to the past. Pitching encouragement, I heard an astounding message of hope. After the program, with tears in my eyes, I made my way through the crowd and told him my story. With compassion, he handed me a page from his speech, and he asked me to give it to my father-in-law. This is what was printed on the page:
“What Cancer Cannot Do:
Cancer is so limited.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.”
Sam lost his battle with cancer on Christmas eve three years later. Looking up to the stars the night of his death, I prayed to God, thanking him for my father-in-law. During this prayer I remembered the words of Paul, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35-39).
Cancer can kill the body, but it cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28-31). Are you afraid of cancer? Discover the peace of Jesus, who conquered his fear while living in pain. The Great Physician wants you to know that you are not alone.
Christian, are you up for the task?
“The great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer:
O hear the voice of Jesus.”
Dave Dravecky’s Battle with Cancer