by Charisse and Darryl Strawberry
Plough Publishing, 1999
ISBN: 0874869889, $25.00
Reviewed by Kate Murphy
In Recovering Life, New York Yankee Darryl Strawberry and his wife Charisse discuss the challenges in their life together, including Darryl's alcoholism and his colon cancer. Written as a conversation, the book provides both the point of view of a cancer patient and that of a spouse as they face their individual and family struggles.
In September 1998, just as the Yankees were getting set to play the Texas Rangers in the Division Championship Series, Darryl Strawberry decided he could wait no longer to speak to the team doctor and find out what was wrong. He was losing weight, feeling lethargic, and didn't want to eat. For most of 1998 he had pain in his abdomen, which he shrugged off as an ulcer or an upset stomach. Urged on by Eric Davis, the Baltimore outfielder who had been treated for colon cancer the previous year, he finally made up his mind to get checked out.
A CT scan revealed a growth in Strawberry's colon, which a follow-up colonoscopy indicated was cancer. Charisse has trouble even saying the word.
"He had said ‘cancer' and I guess I just wasn't prepared for that. I mean, who ever heard of a 36-year-old man with cancer?"
Recovering Life gives an entirely new picture of the "bad boy of baseball." Strawberry's deep religious faith, his tough work ethic, and his refusal to give up are critical in his fight to return to the game that he loves.
The battle is not always smooth and never easy. Alone in Florida, finishing chemotherapy while the Yankees began the season without him, he hit his wall. "From the start, back when I first went in for surgery on my colon, my doctors warned me that sooner or later every cancer patient hits a wall. At some point, they said I'd reach a point where I would feel unable to go on," Strawberry writes.
The chemo was wearing him down. He was angry and moody and felt that he was standing still, even going backward, losing sight of his goal. At that time, after four years of sobriety, he took the first drink that led to a well-publicized arrest.
"I think thankfulness is so important," Darryl writes. "Strange as it sounds, I'm now able to look back on my arrest in April and actually give thanks for it. I realize that even though it cost me a lot of pain and humiliation, God used that moment to bring me up short."
You don't need to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book, to find inspiration and encouragement in the struggles of Darryl and Charisse Strawberry and in their triumphs. This is not the story of a multi-million-dollar sports star. This is the story of a very real man and his wife facing colon cancer, facing addiction, and facing the need to get well again.
Kate Murphy is a member of CCA's board of directors. She is a colon, breast and ovarian cancer survivor.