Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Texan Beats Cancer to Play Ball Again

Jim Ecker        
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Devin Fair had a sore leg, but it didn't get any better.
 
"I thought it was like a sprained ankle, so I just went and got it checked out by the doctor," he said Thursday. "Then I went from doctor to doctor. To about four doctors. And finally I had a biopsy on it."
 
It was cancer. More specifically, bone cancer.
 
"You really don't know what to think when you hear something like that," he said. "It's not something you hear every day."
 
Devin, from Waco, Texas, was going into the 7th grade when he was diagnosed, about four years ago. The cancer is in remission now and he's playing baseball again with the Waco Storm Mariners, but it was a long, tough ordeal.
 
He had chemotherapy treatments for 13 months at a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, about a 90-minute drive from his home. He'd stay in the hospital for three straight days for treatments, take a week off, return to the hospital for five straight days, take a week off, then start the process again, alternating weeks like that for more than a year.
 
"It was pretty hard," he said, "but I got through it."
 
Fair, 16, is in Arkansas this week for the Premier Baseball Sophomore Championship. He's healthy and feels fine, but says he's not as fast as he used to be. He's also trying to rebuild his strength and weight.
 
"I never ate anything during chemo," he said. "I lost about 25 pounds. I'm back to about 140 now. I'm doing good. Nothing bothers me."
 
Devin said there's no history of cancer in his family. He's just glad they diagnosed it when they did.
 
"They said they caught it pretty early, so there was a pretty good chance of recovery," he said.
 
The cancer is in remission.
 
"He doesn't show any signs of it now," said Brian Strickland, his coach with the Waco Storm. "When he plays, you wouldn't notice. He says he's lost a lot of speed, but he's had a great summer for us."
 
Devin missed an entire year of school when he was supposed to be in the 7th grade. A tutor came to his house for lessons, but not on a regular basis.
 
"Every two weeks I'd get four hours in (with the tutor)," he said, "and that's how I passed 7th grade. It's not very fun. You'd think being out of school would be fun, but it's not. You miss your friends."
 
His friends came to his house for visits, and he attended practices and games as much as possible. It wasn't like playing, but gave him something to do while he recovered.
 
"They did support me a lot. All of my friends did," he said.
 
Devin also missed a half-year of school when he was in the 8th grade, then returned to classes. He'll be entering the 11th grade this year at Midway High School in Waco, glad the ordeal is behind him. He remembers being too weak to walk, so playing baseball is a great pleasure. The chemo treatments, administered through a drip, took all his strength away.
 
"You have none. You have no strength," he said. "I remember one time, just crawling through my house on all fours, because I was so weak."
 
He said his speed is coming back, but not completely. "I used to be really, really fast," he said. "In about two pitches, I'd be on third base. Now I can't do that any more."
 
Devin speaks matter-of-factly about the cancer, without bitterness.
 
"It was hard, but looking back on it now, I think about how lucky I was," he said. "It was a hard thing to go through, but I'm glad it happened to me and not somebody else."
 
This is Year 2 of his recovery.
 
"In Year 5, if I'm still clean, then I'll have like a 99 percent chance that it will never come back," he said.
 
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