It was definitely very shocking. I was 18 years old and on top of the world, playing professional baseball while all of my friends were off at college. I had no idea what cancer was or anything about chemotherapy.
Who helped you get through that time and through treatment?
My doctors were really encouraging at all times. They laid out the treatment and what had to be done. We never had any doubts that I would be cured. My family was also there for me every step of the way, my mom, my dad, my brother, my grandmother...that kept me strong.
How did your experience with cancer change you?
I try not to take anything for granted. I know that’s such a cliché, but waking up in the morning and being able to get up on my own and brush my teeth is just something that I’m so grateful for because I see so many kids who are going through treatment for cancer or other illnesses and need 24-hour assistance. To be able to live a normal life on a day-to-day basis is amazing.
Your experience led you to create the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. What’s its number one goal?
We raise money for pediatric cancer patients and cancer research. We help as many families as we possibly can as they go through the tough times financially. Their son or daughter is sick, and money is not easy to come by. We help pay their bills; we help in any way that we can.
What was it like to return to baseball, once you were in remission?
It was emotional, for sure. Going through that whole sickness, it was terrible. And it took a few months of being in remission to fully get my strength back, so to put the uniform back on and play again -- that was an amazing feeling.
When did you know that baseball was your sport?
I always loved playing baseball, all sports, really. But in high school, when people started to tell me that I could get drafted and play professionally, I think that’s when it really started kicking in. That’s all I really wanted to do: Get drafted and play in the major leagues, the big leagues.
What do you do to stay in shape during the off-season?
I do cardio in the morning, then I work out with weights. I also do Pilates or yoga, or I’ll swim. That’s my routine, about 3 hours spread out throughout the day four to five times a week. During the season, it’s usually about an hour, hour and a half, three or four times a week.
Do you make it a point to eat well year-round? What’s for breakfast?
I do the best I can, but I come from a heavy Italian background, so I love to eat. But I do try to put in what’s best for my body. For breakfast, I have a smoothie with protein, spinach, kale, and some berries. Then, a half hour later, I’ll have some eggs or oatmeal.
Any guilty-pleasure foods?
Definitely pasta with my mom’s meat sauce.
What’s your ideal day off?
Just to sit around, relax, and enjoy doing nothing.
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