McNally's lung cancer outlook improves Club's winningest lefty gains new perspective in 2nd fight with disease

August 14, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Dave McNally, who fought prostate cancer last fall, has just finished radiation and chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer, which was discovered in mid-January.

"I'm just trying to get back to normal living now," he said. "I can't believe it's August already. All I've done this whole year is go back and forth to doctors."

From a bad initial prognosis, the outlook has improved for the winningest left-hander in Orioles history (181-113). Earlier this week, for instance, he went to work in the morning at a car dealership he co-owns with his brother in his hometown of Billings, Mont., and played golf in the afternoon.

"Break 80?" McNally yelped. "In my dreams. I didn't even break 90. I was tired afterward, but it was only because I had to swing the club so many times. I'm not complaining, though. I feel good and more than that, I feel really lucky."

Anyone who recalls the grit and desire shown by McNally on the mound during 13 seasons with the Orioles will not be surprised by the assessment of his wife, Jeanne: "Dave has maintained a great attitude throughout. I've never seen such determination in anyone."

McNally said: "What else could I do? Actually, my part has been fairly simple. I had few side effects through all the treatments. I've done what the doctors have been telling me to do without question. and now I just wait. Simple, huh?"

He has had little trouble handling the waiting and uncertainty. "Of course it helps to have all the support he has received from family, friends and [old teammates] calling. And, as he says, 'Being sick gets old quickly,' " Jeanne said.

McNally, who will be 56 in October, smoked throughout his professional career and didn't quit until the prostate gland problem surfaced last September. Then the lung cancer was discovered in January.

After radiation and chemotherapy treatments reduced the size of a tumor in his upper left lung by 90 percent, CT scans and a magnetic resonance imaging divulged that the cancer had not spread.

"They then zapped my head 15 times to make sure and everything came out positive," McNally said. "Someone said there wasn't enough brain there for anything to latch on to.

"At first, energy was tough to come by. I'd get up in the morning feeling good and, after showering and shaving, I'd be ready to go back to bed. I'd sleep for four hours. At first, I could only play three or four holes of golf before quitting. But I've built up my stamina fairly quickly.

"One thing, this whole thing has led to my changing some of my priorities. At work, someone will come up with a problem and I'll almost brush it off by saying, 'Hey, do what you want.' Some minor stuff you felt was important in the past comes into better perspective now."

Earlier in the week, the McNallys went to a Pioneer League game at which former major-league catcher Russ Nixon was managing a Cincinnati Reds affiliate. "Dave and Russ had a great time talking about the old days," Jeanne said. "He was introduced to the crowd and spent the next hour signing autographs. He loved it."

McNally said: "They play in the same ballpark I pitched American Legion ball in 38 years ago.

"Thirty-eight years ago," he said loudly. "Now that's scary."

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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