Published Apr 10, 2021
Former Houston Astros baseball star Adam Whitt, 28, is keeping his eye on the prize as he fights cancer, and turns pro at golf, crediting the sport with helping him through his cancer battle.
“Golf was the first thing that I started to lean on and get me out and playing in the world again,” Whitt says.
As the golf season heats up with this weekend’s Master’s tournament, Whitt sat down with SurvivorNet to discuss his cancer battle. “I’m a current cancer patient and survivor living with chronic myeloid leukemia in Salt Lake City,” says Whitt.
Whitt’s pro-athlete outlook helps him in his cancer fight. “I’ve had to learn…I can only control what I can control. And so that’s kind of the approach I took when I started the chemotherapy; it was: I have cancer.”
For the past three years, Whitt’s treatment has been effective. “It’s an oral chemotherapy I take every night,” he says. Whitt began taking chemo the night he was diagnosed, he says. “There are some side effects with it. You know, you get joint pain and a little nauseous when you take it, you wake up kind of groggy and feel like you have the flu every day, but it’s a small price to pay for, you know, continuing to live and have a good life.”
Whitt now lives in Utah and teaches golf at Golf The Round. For a newbie golfer, he’s already made his mark. “Nobody can hit the ball as far as he does here in Utah,” says Whitt’s friend Dave Todoroff, reports KSLTV. “He’s got a recorded drive on our tracer technology of 427 yards, and I think that’s 13th in the country. Insanely far.”
Chronic myeloid leukemia is a rare, slowly progressing blood cancer that typically affects older people. The average age at diagnosis for this disease is around 64 years. “So, a seemingly healthy 25-year-old male professional athlete getting it is kind of out of the blue,” says Whitt. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 9,110 new cases of CML will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Nearly 15% of all new cases of leukemia are CML.
This disease is caused by a chromosome mutation that occurs spontaneously, and begins in blood-forming cells of bone marrow. Treatments can include targeted drugs, stem-cell transplant, chemotherapy and biological therapy.
Whitt says that his experiences in pro sports helped him see the big picture. “Chemotherapy affects everybody differently and it’s super tough for everyone, no matter what kind you have,” he says.
“I mean, it’s, it’s tough. And so that was one of the things that all my years of playing baseball and competitiveness and all that stuff really came out and helped me, I think, was keeping a positive attitude, working through it, and making sure I still got out and did some type of physical activity, whether early on it was just, you know, taking my wife and walking around the block.”
Whitt says during his chemo, he barely had energy for anything other than walking. “It’s a far cry from, you know, trying to squat 400 pounds every four days or something like that. So it’s definitely a reality check,” he says of chemo’s effects.
Cancer helped Whitt put things in perspective. “I mean, you go from focusing all your effort onto baseball and thinking that’s your life, that’s everything too, man. I just want to be here tomorrow.”
“You know, I just want to be here next month, next week. And it really puts things in perspective and makes you live for the moment,” Whitt says.