DeJesus thankful after cancer scare

DeJesus thankful after cancer scare

CHICAGO -- Cubs coach Ivan DeJesus was looking forward to Father's Day. It means another day to celebrate life after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last year.

DeJesus, 55, discovered his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) was high during a checkup in Puerto Rico last year. PSA is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland, and the test measures the level of PSA in the blood.

The numbers were still high when DeJesus reported to Spring Training with the Cubs in February 2007, so he came to Chicago for a biopsy. The doctors at Northwestern Hospitals were very direct.

"It wasn't anything real bad, it never spread out, and it was only one area when they did the biopsy," DeJesus said. "Everything else was clear. He said we could wait, but we have to take care of this as soon as possible. The good thing was finding out early."

Was DeJesus scared about undergoing surgery?

"No," DeJesus said. "Every year, I do the tests, I make sure everything is good. You never know what's going on inside your body -- especially men, you need to do it because nobody knows. You've got to trust, and you've got to be blessed."

DeJesus, a special assistant on Lou Piniella's staff, has 33 years of experience in professional baseball, including the last 18 as a manager or coach. He has played for seven teams, and still holds the Cubs record with 160 games played in both 1978 and '79. He had 595 assists at shortstop in 1977, also a franchise record. He will always be linked with Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg; DeJesus was traded to the Phillies for Sandberg and Larry Bowa after the 1981 season.

Most athletes think they're invincible. Prostate cancer could never happen to them, right?

"You worry sometimes, but something like that, you never know," DeJesus said. "It could be cholesterol, prostate, anything. Nobody knows. That's why you might be in good shape, but you never know what you have. If you're 40 over, start getting tested early. If you check yourself early, you have a good chance to beat it."

This weekend, MLB will raise awareness for prostate cancer but having players and coaches wear blue wristbands.

"I encourage everybody to do it," DeJesus said about testing. "It might be hereditary. I don't know -- my father died when I was young. I've already told my brothers and my son to make sure they're tested."

DeJesus had his surgery on Aug. 28, 2007. He says he'll always remember the date.

"You don't forget it," he said. "It was the first time ever in my life I had surgery. It had to be something serious for me to do that. Something like that you can't beat. You have to treat it right away."

And now?

"The last checkup in November, the bone scan and everything was clear, I'm 100 percent clear," he said. "The last two checkups were good."

This Sunday will be special for DeJesus.

"It's something to celebrate," he said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.