A truly inspirational Oriole At treatment center, cancer patients draw strength from Davis

October 04, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,SUN COLUMNIST

Elaine McCauley walked slowly, wheeling her IV through the treatment area.

"Ooooh," she exclaimed, "there's Eric Davis."

McCauley, 50, wore an Orioles cap, covering a head that was once full of hair. Davis greeted her warmly, then took her cap to autograph.

It wasn't a typical exchange between a player and fan.

It was two cancer patients sharing a special moment at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center at Green Spring Station.

"Oh, he's going to sign it! I'm cured!" McCauley said, kicking her leg into the air.

Davis smiled.

"Don't get all sentimental on me now," he said.

On Wednesday, Davis delivered a two-run single in the Orioles' 9-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

But at 12: 15 p.m. yesterday, he returned to the oncology center for chemotherapy, with the intention of playing in Game 3 today at Camden Yards.

Davis, 35, isn't sure he'll be strong enough to be in the Orioles lineup. Does it even matter? Each day brings a new victory, not only for himself, but also for those he inspires.

"I was rooting for you, oh, you don't know," McCauley said.

McCauley suffers from breast cancer. She lost both her parents to cancer. And she is so sick, she must visit the oncology center every day.

A resident of Baltimore, she didn't even follow baseball until she began chemotherapy July 18. But the sight of Davis yesterday moved her to tears.

"Oh, give me a hug," she told him.

Davis obliged.

"Good luckto you," McCauley said.

"Good luck to you, too," Davis replied.

"I said, 'If you can do it, I can do it,' " McCauley said.

"I'm doing it," Davis told her.

"I'm doing it, too," McCauley said.

Davis put his arm around her.

"I now pronounce us " McCauley said, and a room full of doctors, nurses, patients and Hopkins officials filled with laughter.

When an administrator asked for her name on a form permitting the use of her photograph, she replied, "Mrs. Eric Davis!"

"I'm OK," McCauley said as she sat down, wiping tears from her eyes. "I just can't believe I got to meet him."

Moments later, Davis entered a private room and sat down in a reclining chair.

A nurse inserted an IV into his left forearm, and his treatment began.

Davis was accompanied by his friend and marketing agent, Wayne "Box" Miller. A nurse offered a selection of videos. They selected "The Firm."

His treatment would last two hours, 10 minutes.

"Normally, when the movie's over, it's almost time for me to get out of here," he said.

He wore a complete Nike wardrobe -- black cap, white sweat jacket, black sweat pants, black-and-white Air Jordan sneakers.

He joked with nurses, teased a receptionist, left his door open, enabling others to stroll in.

Nancy Hauser of Brodbecks, Pa., asked Davis to sign a piece of Hopkins stationery for her husband, Stephen, 48.

Like Davis, Stephen Hauser is battling colon cancer. Yesterday was his day for chemotherapy, too.

"It's an unspoken common bond these people have," Nancy Hauser said. "[Davis] is an incredible inspiration to him and to our three children."

Sherry Janney of Fredericksburg, Va., got an autograph for her brother Randall, 13 -- and later returned to request another for her brother Aaron, 24.

Janney, 30, suffers from breast cancer.

"A lot of people go through the back door -- they don't want anyone to see them," she said. "For him to come out here with all these people, sit here, give autographs, not hide, that says something right there."

Davis makes an equally powerful statement every time he takes the field, but today's game represents his greatest challenge yet.

He left Game 2 with a strained left quadriceps, but his greater concern is that he will lack proper rest.

The Orioles flew 5 1/2 hours from Seattle to Baltimore after Thursday's game. Davis said he did not return home until 4: 30 a.m. yesterday.

He slept four hours, received his treatment from 12: 45 to 2: 55, then went back home to rest.

Today, he will arrive at the ballpark at approximately 1 p.m. for a 4: 30 p.m. start. A night game would give him extra time to recover.

Davis played the night after receiving a chemotherapy treatment last Saturday in Milwaukee, and went 4-for-5 with a home run.

"That's what concerns me -- I won't feel up to what I normally feel after I've taken it," Davis said. "This is pushing it to the limit."

Davis said the chemotherapy does not make him nauseated, but estimated that he would be three times as tired as the average player today.

"If you see me run out to right field, you'll know I feel all right," he said.

His wife, Sherrie, flew in from their home in Los Angeles yesterday to join him in Baltimore. Davis said she would cook him dinner.

He ate lunch while receiving his treatment, attacking a tuna melt with a plastic fork.

"Ain't no chips in there?" he asked Miller, pointing to the paper bag with their lunch order.

Miller located the potato chips, and Davis also ate fruit salad, expressing dissatisfaction with the size of the portion.

"They run out of fruit?" he asked.

The movie ran on the VCR. Two reporters asked questions. The medicine that Davis calls "poison" seeped into his veins.

Outside in the treatment area, Elaine McCauley clutched her Orioles cap, the one now inscribed, "To Elaine, Best Wishes, Eric Davis, No. 24."

She had received the cap two days before in a package the Orioles sent at a friend's request.

And now she had met Davis.

Millionaire athlete. Fellow cancer patient. Friend.

"It was meant to be. I really believe it. I'm on top of the world," Elaine McCauley said.

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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