Friday Frontline: Paralympic Champion Snowboarder Dies of Bone Cancer, Baltimore Orioles Player Returns to Baseball After Cancer Treatment, and More

April 2, 2021
Jamie Cesanek

From the death of Paralympic champion snowboarder Bibian Mentel to Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini successfully completing treatment for colon cancer, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

Paralympic champion snowboarder BIbian Mentel died from the effects of bone cancer.

Bibian Mentel became the first Paralympic snowboarding champion in 2014 and later won two gold medals at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

After spending two decades in treatment for bone cancer, Mentel died on March 29 at age 48. The cancer had returned multiple times and did not respond to chemotherapy. She had five lung surgeries, two neck operations and 128 radiations.

Mentel was initially training for the 2002 Winter Olympics when she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her lower right leg, which consequently had to be amputated below the knee.

As reported by NBC Sports, three weeks prior to her death, Mentel said, “I still like to take every day as a beautiful moment. That sounds cliché, but we’ve had — in the past two weeks — a lot of time to speak about everything with family and friends, and eventually you reach a point where you wonder, ‘Are there still things that need to be said?’ And I’m happy that I have not been taken from life from one day to the next, and that I have the chance to say those last things that you want to say to each other to my family and friends. Because of that, everything has actually been said. Now every day is a gift.”

A survivor of triple negative breast cancer and COVID-19 shared how she successfully managed her nonprofit organization through quarantine.

Beverly Jones-Durr started her nonprofit, Every Child Has a Story, to help children become published authors to build their confidence and self-esteem. As the nonprofit began expanding in 2019, Jones-Durr was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and began chemotherapy.

“I’m excited because I had been trapped in the house, my white count was so low, I couldn’t be around the kids, which was so devastating for me,” Jones-Durr told WHNT News 19. “Then COVID hit. When people say, ‘I’ve been in the house 90 days,’ I been here since 2019!”

The pandemic forced her to place more emphasis on the digital aspects of her organization. The children Jones-Durr works with now write stories for the digital magazine and connect with her via Zoom. Prior to the pandemic, the young authors would attend book signing events to talk about their books and learn how to exchange money. Though these events are paused for now, the nonprofit is still growing and will publish 15 new authors at the end of the month.

Jones-Durr was also diagnosed with COVID-19, which she survived.

“No matter what’s going on in your life, you can find something to laugh at,” she said. “If you don’t, you will go crazy.”

MLB player prepares for 2021 baseball season after colon cancer diagnosis in 2020.

Just before the 2020 baseball season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, 29, was diagnosed with colon cancer after his doctors found a tumor in his colon. He underwent surgery and six months of chemotherapy, which he had to attend alone due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

Mancini is now in remission and rejoined the Orioles for spring training last month. During his treatment, fans of the team showed support by buying shirts with his number alongside the word, “fight,” and raising over $80,000 for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Though his father had also suffered from colon cancer years before, the thought never crossed Mancini’s mind that he would be diagnosed at such a young age. After a blood draw at a regular physical, his doctors noticed that his hemoglobin and hematocrit were low and scheduled a colonoscopy and endoscopy, which is how the tumor was discovered.

“I am extremely, extremely fortunate to be a major league baseball player and have the medical care I do,” he said in an interview with Today. “So I really do feel like I, you know, have a lot of work to do as far as spreading awareness and getting some tests in the hands of people that might not be as fortunate as myself.”

Senator Thom Tillis announced he will be undergoing surgery for prostate cancer next week.

North Carolina senator Thom Tillis, 60, announced that he will undergo surgery for prostate cancer next week. The cancer was detected early due to routine screenings.

“My prognosis is good because I went to my annual physical and received a PSA test, which led to a biopsy and eventually my diagnosis,” said Tillis in a statement, according to Politico. “Early detection can truly save lives.”

Tillis was reelected for a second Senate term in November after defeating Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham.

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