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Can Anthony Rizzo Break the Cubs Curse?

There are high hopes at Wrigley for the 23-year-old slugger.

(page 4 of 8)

Rizzo at his 2007 graduation

Photograph: Courtesy of the Rizzo Family
 

At his 2007 graduation (from left: grandmother AnnaMae Rapisardi; Rizzo; father John; mother Laurie; brother Johnny)

Rizzo tackled his treatment with the same ferocious determination he did sports. For his parents, he had one request. “I said, ‘I don’t want to get a bunch of sympathy,” he recalls. “I don’t want everyone going, ‘Oh, how are you feeling? To baby me. I just want to be normal.’ ”

Left unspoken was that he did not want to add to his mother’s burden as she dealt with her own mother’s cancer fight. “You never heard anything about [his illness from him],” says his brother, John. “He never really complains too much.”

And in the abstract, chemotherapy didn’t sound so bad. Get a few months of treatments, get well, and go play ball again. The reality was much starker. Long days attached to an IV. Four different meds, including two “push” injections. One injection was like “getting broken glass shot into your veins,” his father says.

“It wasn’t fun,” Rizzo agrees. He spent the next few months living at his parents’ house with his grandmother, who had moved there while she was going through her own cancer treatments. Rizzo had always been very close to his grandparents. “They were a big influence on my kids,” Laurie says. “They went to every single game that both of them had.”

In the days immediately following chemotherapy, Rizzo says, his body would shut down completely. “It would just be miserable. By the next week, I would feel OK, and I would try to go out and move around—shoot some basketball.”

He kept nausea at bay by sticking to a very limited diet. “The only thing I ate was my mom’s pasta and her sauce,” he says. “If I was really nauseous, I would drink a milkshake or eat brownies. So I actually gained weight and didn’t lose my hair. Not sure how that works.”

That fall, Rizzo’s parents were in a plane waiting to take off for Austin to watch their older son, who was now an offensive lineman with Florida Atlantic University, play the University of Texas Longhorns. They were also anxiously awaiting a call from Rizzo’s doctors, for the six months of chemotherapy were nearly over. “They were just about to tell us to turn the phones off when the phone rang,” Laurie recalls. “It was the doctor, and he told us Anthony was in remission.”

Her reaction? “I screamed,” she says, laughing. “I think the whole plane knew. I was yelling to some friends of ours in the back of the plane, ‘He’s in remission!’ ” But their joy would be tempered. Ten days after learning that he had likely won his cancer battle, Rizzo learned his grandmother had lost hers. “At least,” he says, glancing at the sky, “she knows I’m healthy.”

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