Life is similar to baseball – like life, baseball can teach you things that transcend off the field. In life, just like baseball, you never know when the pitcher is going to throw you a curve ball! And in July 2011, LIFE threw me a curve ball. I was diagnosed with Stage-4 Metastatic Melanoma with an unknown primary cancer and given 6 months to live. I quickly found out that life can turn on a dime. As I started the process of finding out what to do next, I realized that there were limited melanoma therapies available and that this is a type of cancer and that does not respond well to normal chemotherapy.
While getting my DNA tested to see if I carry the BRAF Gene, my doctor at the time decided to give me two rounds of outdated therapy called “IL2 therapy” or “Interleukin 2 Immunotherapy”. During the second round of this therapy, I developed a full-upper body neuropathy that started in my hands and quickly moved throughout my upper body, from head to knees. Because of this therapy and my cancer, I quickly lost 50 pounds in only one month. I couldn’t eat and my hope was fading very fast. At one point I told my wife “That’s it”, and she said, “Go tell your boys you’re not going to fight anymore”. I couldn’t look at my two young sons and tell them I was leaving them. From that day forward, I decided to fight as hard as I could. It will be four years in July, and I’m still here.
After a fifteen year career in professional baseball, I decided to start a youth training organization called Predator USA Training & Baseball Organization. I have been involved with youth baseball for over 25 years now. While in professional baseball, I was with seven different teams and a part of several major accomplishments including being a part of a World Championship organization as a member of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks as a Brand Ambassador and Training Center Coach.
My passion in life is baseball. It was passed down to me by my Dad, and helping kids fulfill their dreams through baseball is what makes me get up every day. Since moving to Arizona in 1996, I have been instrumental in growing youth baseball in my community. My life is surrounded by baseball and family! I have been fortunate enough to make baseball my full time career, and I have been able to share my love for baseball with my family, my wife Wendy, and my two sons; Albert (7) and Roman (6). At the time of my cancer diagnosis, they were 3 and 2, respectively.
It’s through love of family and friends that I continue to fight and get better. As of February 2015, I am finally back to work doing what I love – teaching baseball. This cancer has taken a toll on my overall health, financial situation, and wellbeing, but I have my family and will continue to work to be an advocate for Melanoma Research in the hopes of finding a cure. To follow my progress, please visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/Billsandillo.