St Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes has revealed his baby daughter has been battling cancer for more than a year after tumors were found near her heart.
The 23-year-old, a promising rookie and Top 20 prospect, just underwent his second season-ending surgery in two years.
But as the sports world has been musing about his career, Reyes reveals he has had ‘more important things’ to focus on: little Alyeka, who turns two in July, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer in the nerve cells, when she was just five months old.
So for the last 18 months, in between rehabilitation from elbow surgery, Reyes has been taking his daughter to doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatments.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right shoulder, Reyes said Aleyka has helped motivate him to fight for his career after multiple injuries have led to him pitching in just one game in the major leagues in about two years.
St Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes has revealed publicly for the first time that his one-year-old daughter, Aleyka (pictured), is battling cancer
Reyes, 23 (pictured, May 30), is coming off his second season-ending surgery in two years after he tore elbow and back muscles in February 2017 and May 2018, respectively
Aleyka (left and right), who turns two in July, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was just five months old. Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer of specialized nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues. Tumors were found around Aleyka’s heart
‘There are some things that are more important in life than this,’ Reyes told the StL Sports Page in his return to the Cardinals clubhouse.
‘She battled with cancer and she battled with a tumor. I felt like, if my daughter fought for her life, I can fight for my career. That’s pretty much been what’s been in my head.’
WHAT IS NEUROBLASTOMA?
Neuroblastoma is a cancer of specialized nerve cells in the nervous system and other tissues.
More than 700 children in the US are diagnosed each year with the disease and most are diagnosed when they are younger than five.
It is the second most common solid tumor in childhood, and it makes up eight percent of the total number of children’s cancers.
Neuroblastoma commonly occurs in either one of the two adrenal glands in a child’s tummy or in nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord, in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis.
The cancer can spread to tissues beyond the original site, including bone marrow, bone, lymph nodes, liver and skin.
As with most cancers the cause of neuroblastoma is unknown. The symptoms vary depending on where a child’s tumor is.
Treatment depends on the age of the child, as well as the size and position of the tumor and whether the disease has spread.
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that develops in the very early forms of nerve cells.
It is most common in infants and children under age five, rarely occurring in older children.
Neuroblastoma is most commonly found in the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys and are responsible for producing hormones that help regulate the metabolism, immune system and other essential functions.
However, it can also begin in or spread to other areas including the abdomen, chest, and spine, where groups of nerve cells exist.
Reyes said that, in Aleyka’s case, the tumors were found around her heart when she was diagnosed. Since then, she has undergone chemotherapy and continues to improve.
‘She’s doing a lot better, the tumors are a lot smaller, and hopefully she won’t need any more chemo treatments,’ Reyes said.
‘She has another appointment in about two months.’
Aleyka’s road to recovery has seem to run parallel to his: first from Tommy John surgery and now from a lat muscle tear.
Reyes missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery in February 2017 after he suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament – one of the ligaments on the inner side of the elbow – in his right arm.
Aleyka (pictured on Reyes’s shoulders) has been undergoing chemotherapy and Reyes said he is hopeful she will soon be done with treatment
Aleyka’s road to recovery has seem to run parallel to his: first from Tommy John surgery and now from a lat muscle tear that will sideline him until next spring training. Pictured, Reyes, left and right
He returned to the Cardinals on May 30 and pitched four innings against the Milwaukee Brewers – his first game in the majors since September 2016 – before suffering a new injury.
This time it was a torn latissmus dorsi – a large, flat muscle on the back that stretches to the sides, behind the arm. Recovery from the injury will sideline him until next spring training.
This means, between both injuries, he will have pitched in just one MLB game is about two years.
Yet, Reyes remains one of the best prospects in baseball.
During his debut in the 2016 season, had a 1.57 ERA and struck out 52 players in 46 innings.
Despite his injuries, Reyes remains of the of the best prospects in baseball and, at the start of this season, was named the No 15 best prospect
Reyes said his daughter has been his motivation to keep working hard to get back on the mound, telling reporters: ‘If my daughter fought for her life, I can fight for my career.’ Pictured: Reyes in February 2017 after having Tommy John surgery
In May of this year, when he played in four games in the minor leagues as part of his rehab, Reyes did not allow a run in 23 innings and recorded 44 strikeouts.
Before the season started, MLB.com ranked him as the No 15 best prospect in baseball.
However, throughout the trials and tribulations, Reyes said his daughter has been his motivation.
‘[Her cancer] was definitely a lot tougher situation in my life. To know how strong she is now, and how strong she was through that process, those are things that drive me,’ he told reporters.
I go home and carry her and she really motivates me to come back here and work hard and get stuff done.’