Angels pitcher Cesar Ramos' wife Melanie has beaten tough foe: Cancer

Cesar Ramos' wife Melanie is cancer-free 26 months after diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma

Little Addison Ramos, a 5-month-old bundle of coos and giggles, sits on her father's lap and gnaws on the hand that feeds her, turning the thumb of recently acquired Angels reliever Cesar Ramos into a teething toy.

She has her father's dark hair, her mother Melanie's blue eyes and a disposition that shines as she bats her long eyelashes and grins at a visitor on the backyard patio of the family's La Crescenta home.

"She's so alert when she's awake — she'll look at you, smile and laugh — it's the cutest thing ever," Melanie says of Addison, who was born July 5. "She really is our miracle baby, in every sense of the word."

It was June 17, 2013, that doctors told Melanie she would have a 50% chance of conceiving naturally. She had just completed nine months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue in her neck.

Melanie was also told that in order to give her body ample time to recover from the grueling and invasive treatments, she should wait two to three years before attempting to get pregnant.

Four months later, on Oct. 21, 2013 — one year to the day after her cancer diagnosis and three months before their Jan. 25 wedding in Pasadena — a home pregnancy test came up positive.

"It was such a shock. We thought, 'There is no way this is happening,'" Melanie said. "We thought it would be two years before we'd try. We figured we'd have complications. We thought we may have to go the IVF [in vitro fertilization] route. And we were in the middle of planning for a wedding.

"Oh my God, this was not the way we planned it. But it seriously has been the best thing. There were no complications with pregnancy or labor. She's totally healthy. She is such a blessing. We had enough of the bad stuff for a while. Things are starting to turn our way."

Cesar Ramos, 30, had a record of 5-9 with a 3.66 earned-run average in 167 games for Tampa Bay from 2011-2014. He and Melanie met in 2003 as freshmen at Long Beach State, where Cesar pitched and Melanie played third base on the softball team.

They began dating as sophomores and remained together while Cesar, a first-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2005, worked toward the major leagues. They were engaged in 2012.

That July, Melanie felt a lump on her neck. By late August, there were three lumps that felt like marbles.

An athlete her whole life, Melanie became easily fatigued when she exercised. Her skin began to itch. It was sometimes painful to breathe. She went to a doctor and was diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer. She was 28.

"We were definitely crushed," Cesar said. "For someone so healthy, who watches what she eats, who is as active as she is, how is that physically possible? It was a big scare. As soon as you hear the 'C' word, you fear the worst."

It took Melanie several days to come to grips with the news.

"You never think in a million years it could happen to you," she said. ""You live a healthy life and then, boom, it changes in an instant. I had a pity party for one day, but then I realized a negative attitude wasn't going to get me anywhere. I decided 'I'm going to beat this.' It became a full-time job."

Told the five-year survival rate for her cancer was about 90%, with many people living much longer and many being cured, Melanie said, "That was all the information I needed. I could work with that. I didn't go on the Internet doing research. I would have driven myself crazy."

Melanie underwent six months of chemotherapy, losing her hair and suffering severe headaches and fatigue. She was buoyed by a surprise visit from Cesar, who left the Rays for a day and was in the chemotherapy room at City of Hope Cancer Center in Pasadena when Melanie arrived for her last treatment on May 6, 2013.

After a three-week break, Melanie underwent four weeks of daily radiation treatments. A PET scan showed she was cancer free, and blood work from her once-every-three-month visits to an oncologist has been clean.

"Any time I feel sick I think it's come back, and because of the area they radiated, I have a higher risk of breast and lung cancer," Melanie said. "It's always in the back of your head. 'Is this ever going to go away?' I feel that anxiety before every checkup."

Cesar felt a twinge of anxiety on Nov. 5 when the left-hander received a text message to call the Rays front office. But the initial shock of being traded to the Angels, where Ramos will be reunited with former Long Beach State teammate Jered Weaver, was replaced by elation.

"Yeah, you're traded, but how often do you get to come home?" Ramos said. "It was pretty cool. I think the Rays were excited for me, too, knowing everything we've gone through."

The Angels like Ramos' versatility. A former starter, Ramos, who is projected to make $1.3 million in arbitration next season, is not a left-handed specialist. He can pitch long relief, short relief and has been almost as effective against right-handed hitters (.249 career batting average against) as left-handers (.241).

"He's been the guy who could do a little bit of everything in the bullpen," Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said of Ramos, who mixes a 91-mph fastball with a slider and changeup. "And very quietly, under the radar, he's been pretty consistent doing it."

The trade capped a head-spinning year in which Cesar and Melanie were married in January, had their baby in July and in August purchased their four-bedroom, four-bathroom house, which sits high in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and has a panoramic view of the Southland.

After the first Thanksgiving and Christmas with their new baby in their new home, Cesar and Melanie won't have to pack up and relocate to Florida for the start of the baseball season, as they have for four years.

"Getting married, having the baby, buying the house, and now this trade . . . the year's not even over, and we're still getting good news," Cesar said. "I have to pinch myself every once in a while to make sure it's real."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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