Angels player information coach Rico Brogna returned to the team this weekend after a four-week absence in which he had the scare of his life, a diagnosis for testicular cancer and surgery to remove a mass on May 13.
“This is very sobering, it’s immediate, it’s gripping,” said Brogna, who serves as a liaison between the front office and scouting staff and the coaching staff and players. “It’s like when you’re a kid and you get called to the [principal’s] office.
“You think, ‘What did I do wrong?’ There’s a pit in your stomach. Magnify that times 100 with this phone call. You’re not quite sure what it is. … It was a really frightening time.”
Brogna, 45, began to feel a growth in his groin area in spring training. “For six or seven weeks, I didn’t say anything, hoping it would go away,” said Brogna, who played nine years with five teams in the major leagues. It didn’t.
Brogna finally informed head athletic trainer Adam Nevala of the growth when the team was in San Francisco in early May. Brogna was sent to doctors, who suspected the mass was cancerous. Brogna returned to his home state of Connecticut to undergo surgery, and tests confirmed the cancer.
“The first tears really came when I got home to my family. The second tears came when all the players on the team started texting me,” said Brogna, who is married with two children, a 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.
“I have a strong faith, but … I’m looking at my kids and wondering, ‘Am I going to die? Am I going to need chemotherapy and lose my hair?’ It’s a weird, emotional roller coaster filled with peaks and valleys. But I’m still alive.”
Brogna was told by doctors that his cancer was “encapsulated,’ meaning it was confined to a specific, localized area, and subsequent tests showed that the cancer has not spread.
Brogna’s prognosis for a full recovery is good, and he was able to resume all of his job duties during this weekend’s series against the New York Yankees. He will undergo CT scans every three months for two years.
“The doctors think it’s the best-case type of cancer for it not to return,” Brogna said. “”They didn’t guarantee that or put a percentage on it, but with all the blood work, there was no sign it had spread. They feel better about this type of cancer.”
Brogna said he felt a little uncomfortable speaking about his condition because “I’m kind of private, I’m not into the drama,” he said. “But I also realize I have an opportunity to help somebody. Get checked.
“I probably would have been the first to say, “I’m going to get checked. I’m not going to be stubborn.’ But I didn’t get it checked for a long time. If I had let it keep going, who knows?”