Powell on Comeback Trail
Two weeks after colon cancer surgery, Boog Powell slaved over the stove of his Hunt Valley, Md., home, making hot sauce from the bounty in his own back yard.
“I had to [make the sauce]--all of my peppers ripened at the same time,” Powell, the Baltimore Orioles slugger-turned-barbecue baron, said Monday. “Of course, I’m still afraid to taste the stuff. All I can do is smell it right now.”
Certainly, he’s feeling better, said Powell, who is expected to recover fully from the Aug. 25 surgery in which one-third of his colon was removed. The operation left him lethargic and 20 pounds lighter, but with a healthy respect for routine examinations like that which caught his tumor in time.
“When you pass 50, it’s so important to get that checkup and to tell your doctor every problem you have, no matter how small,” said Powell, 56, who held a news conference at Oriole Park Monday to drive home that point. “If I can help somebody else catch (cancer) in time . . .”
During his annual physical in June, Powell complained of passing blood periodically in his stool. Further tests revealed a blockage in his colon, 3 feet of which was removed by a surgical team led by Dr. Keith Lillemoe at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Word of the abdominal mass “scared the hell out of me,” said Powell, the Orioles’ No. 3 all-time home run leader. “I said, ‘Let’s deal with it as quickly as possible.’ ”
Result: Powell’s cancer did not spread. “Boog is still sore, but he has every chance for a complete recovery,” Lillemoe said Monday.
After meeting with Hopkins oncologists and Orioles outfielder Eric Davis, himself recovering from colon cancer surgery performed by Lillemoe, Powell said he will “probably” opt for chemotherapy shortly to lessen the odds of the tumor recurring.
“Eric came to the hospital, and we compared scars,” Powell said. “Based on how he’s done (with chemo), I’ve 90 percent decided to do it. If I didn’t do it, and the cancer came back in five years, I’d really kick myself in the butt. I’ve got a lot of living to do yet.”
The outpouring of support during his convalescence has helped his recovery, said Powell, who has heard from fans, high school pals and old Orioles teammates such as Frank Robinson, Jim Gentile, Brooks Robinson and Curt Blefary. General manager Pat Gillick fought through a forest of flowers to visit him in the hospital. “My room smelled like a greenhouse,” Powell said.
The cards and phone calls have helped him stay positive through the ordeal, he said. “If cancer can be willed away, and everyone has been praying for me like they say they have, then it should be gone.”
Powell is unsure when he’ll return to the barbecue stand that he owns at Oriole Park, where he greets fans and signs autographs before home games.
“I’ll be there before the season is over, definitely for the playoffs,” he said. “I may have to modify things a bit, maybe sit in a chair. I look forward to being there; It makes my day, being part of the public mix.”
Given his type of cancer, are there plans to add more roughage to the barbecue menu? “We’ve already got (baked) beans and cole slaw, which is a pretty good combination,” Powell said. “The pork is all loin, the turkey is lean and the beef is pretty much nonfat.
“Even beer has some grain in it, right?”