Alex Loftin really is that poster person for the often-used phrase “Too blessed to be stressed.”
He tears up when he thinks about what might have been, and he tears up again when he thinks about how deeply he’s been blessed.
Alex — the subject of my March 4 column — pitched for Stow-Munroe Falls High School, the University of Akron and summers during his college career with the Edenton (N.C.) Steamers and the Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers.
The 23-year-old right-hander did all that, from 2007 to the present, while enduring “unbearable pain” in his right leg that grew in intensity. Amazingly, he was still able to compete at a high level. Mind over matter, he would say.
Alex sought medical attention for the pain that dogged his every move, going from doctor to doctor, undergoing various examinations and biopsies. “Every single doctor said ‘it’s not cancerous!’ ” Alex said. Still, none could tell him what it was, or how to stop the pain.
Turns out it was indeed cancer: Stage IIIB high-grade, soft-cell sarcoma in the right leg.
Three different doctors told him it would have to be amputated. “I was freaking out!” Alex said.
But then the dark clouds parted when he met with Dr. Richard Louis McGough, orthopedic surgeon and co-director of the Sarcoma Specialty Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. “He’s been the biggest blessing I could have ever imagined,” Alex said.
“He saved my leg … I have an 11-inch incision on the back of my calf. Already I’m barely able to notice it … I’ve already started rehab and I’ve been told I’ll be able to put more pressure on it and should be walking shortly.”
Alex, who is back home in Stow, returns to Pittsburgh on March 25 where he will learn more about his treatment schedule. He does know it will include intense radiation and chemotherapy, and that the radiation will be done in Akron.
“I tell you, I feel like a new person. This is the first time since my sophomore year of high school that I’ve been pain free! …
“I feel confident and hopeful that I’ll be able to be back on the baseball field next year, chasing my dreams. I still believe the dream [of playing in the pros] is still there … I feel like I have a new life ahead of me and I’m so excited.”
A grateful Alex Loftin wants more than anything else to give the community a huge hug for all of the support that’s come his way. “People I don’t even know have reached out to me. I’m so grateful … When all of this is behind me I will find a way to give back and to help others. I’m willing to give back in whatever way I can. I just thank everyone so much!”
He concluded, “The community has just been awesome, their support so amazing and so appreciated.”
UA camp pitches in
Big, beautiful bouquets to the University of Akron’s “Teammates for Life” camp for the support it’s throwing behind Loftin.
“After talking with UA baseball coaches and learning of their desire to raise funds to help Alex Loftin offset his expenses related to the surgery and the treatments he will receive, we knew we could help,” wrote Julie Jones, Zips softball coach.
“Each year, thanks to our alumni and friends, we have the opportunity to host a Teammates for Life camp, raising thousands of dollars to benefit UA softball alumni in need …
“This year is no different … yet, it is completely different! This year we want to donate all funds raised through the camp to Alex, a UA alum, but one who played on a little bigger field with a little smaller ball!”
The event is planned for 9:15 a.m. April 21 at Lee Jackson Field (softball and baseball), Stile Athletics Field House. Here’s the fun part: Any softball or baseball player age 6-18 may participate (skill sessions will be split based on age/ability). Pizza will be provided for all campers during pregame batting practice and warm-up.
Game time is 2 p.m. and registration is $50 (early bird) or $75. The goal is to raise $5,000 that day for Alex.
And here’s this sweet footnote as shared by Jones:
“A special thanks to UA alum and hall of famer Deann Viebranz, for whom we planned to benefit through this year’s camp. Deann is facing her second battle with breast cancer and is the reason our camp exists. It was her initial battle that drove her former teammates to action and established the first Teammates for Life camp in August 2009.
“I spoke with Deann in my office today and she gave us the blessing to host this year’s camp in honor of Alex. I promise we will find another way to support Deann and her incredible fight. What an amazing and inspirational person she has been for us all!”
Interested in helping Jones help Alex Loftin on April 21? Please download the application at www.gozips.com; search for camps.
“We are so excited about the opportunity to support such an awesome young man!”
Friends and family of Loftin — with his dear cousin Liz Palmatier taking the lead — have come together to organize another fundraiser, 3 to 7 p.m. also on April 21.
This one — which includes food, a silent auction, cash bar, and music featuring Alex’s brother Herbie, a.k.a. DJsmoov — will take place at the Stow VFW, 3733 Fishcreek Road, Stow.
No cost, but donations will be taken at the door.
And the best part of all is that Alex plans to be there.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.