Earlier today I spoke with a former New York Met and the current Chief of Neuro-Oncology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center about a two-day media campaign sponsored by Merck to raise awareness about primary brain tumors and to provide support for patients and their families and friends.
Ron Darling, a starting pitcher for the Mets, Oakland Athletics, and Montreal Expos, who is credited with winning the 1986 World Series championship with the Mets, discussed his friendship with Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, who died in February after living with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) for 10 months.
Also on the call as a partner in the campaign was Andrew B. Lassman, MD, who addressed medical issues and where to turn for support.
Darling said he had learned about Gary Carter’s cancer through newspaper accounts and contacted his friend in Palm Beach a few months following his diagnosis.
“I called him immediately, and didn’t know what it [glioblastoma] was and what it meant, but I wanted to lend my support and let him know I was here if he needed me.
“Before [the diagnosis] I may have seen him once a year, but I was very touched. [Our relationship] changed as time went on. I saw him a few times, and we would talk and text as he got weaker. It was quite an ordeal and a journey for me because I had never gone through [something like that] before.”
Darling said it was a big moment for Carter when he, Darling, was featured during last year’s World Series holding a sign saying “my catcher” in a Major League Baseball public service announcement for Stand Up To Cancer.
“Gary saw it and sent me a text message, and it seemed there were almost tears in a text message because he was so excited to see that.”
Darling said he had gotten involved in the Merck campaign to help bring awareness and to let others know that “moments do matter” – “and more importantly, if anyone hears us talk about this and has symptoms, they should see their physician right away. And if at some point they are diagnosed with a brain tumor, I want them to know they have a place to go with a network of folks who would support them through this difficult ordeal.
“To me, Gary still lives, with the ability to touch people.”
Lassman, who was not involved in Carter’s treatment, said he was honored to be asked by Merck to participate in the campaign and that he became involved because he thinks it’s important to raise awareness about brain cancer for individual patients, both in terms of access to medical care and to bring additional attention to the disease overall.
“Gary’s case was tragic and he was struck down in the prime of life, and that could happen to any of us,” Lassman said. “If there’s any positive that can come from his diagnosis or that of other celebrities like Ted Kennedy, it’s that it can bring attention and awareness to glioblastomas and other similar brain tumors.”
He noted the following websites that provided useful information about the condition:
As for why the campaign was being held now, Lassman said he knew of no particular reason for the specific timing, and that his involvement would end after two days of interviews with news media and talk show hosts.
He also said that physicians should deal with brain cancer patients with a delicate balance of realism and optimism.