FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jerry Remy has lung cancer.
Preparing to begin his 30th season as a color commentator on NESN’s Red Sox telecasts, the former Sox second baseman learned that his cancer had returned when he had tests just before the holidays. He is undergoing treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital and plans to fly to Florida next month and work his full schedule of four spring training games and 115 regular-season games in 2017.
NESN announced Remy’s relapse Monday morning, and Remy spoke about his condition and other matters in the afternoon.
“I’ve had better offseasons,’’ said the popular announcer. “I went in for a CAT scan before Christmas. It was my normal three-month CAT scan, and they saw something weird on there, so they gave me a PET scan, and that lit up all over the place, even in my nodes. So they were very concerned it had spread.
“I went through surgery and they removed the nodes, and the nodes were fine. It had not spread. It was pretty miserable waiting for the results of that for a week.
“Then they went back in a third time for a new procedure with the hot needle that burns out the cancer, and they did that last Monday. Right now I’m in a holding pattern. I can’t fly for four weeks. I have a follow-up CAT scan on March 1 and then they’ll give me clearance to fly and I can go to Florida.
“This was probably the toughest time for me because we thought for a while that it had spread. If it had spread, the prognosis probably wouldn’t be as good.’’
Remy was first treated for lung cancer in 2008. A year later, he took a leave of absence and was treated for depression. He believes that going public with his conditions was helpful to others, and that’s what he’s trying to do now.
“I was debating: Do I sit on this like I’ve sat on a couple of the other ones?’’ Remy said. “Dr. [Larry] Ronan [Red Sox team physician] told me that when I came out about my depression, it helped a lot of people, so we thought we could do the same by doing this and telling people to get to their doctors. Get their checkups.
“Early detection is what saves lives, and that’s the point I’m trying to pound home. I credit Dr. Ronan for saving my life. I went in to him when I was not going to a doctor regularly and he saw this weird spot on my chest X-ray. He’s the guy that recommended we look further into this, and thank God he did. The whole staff at Mass. General has been fabulous.
“This is the fourth time I’ve had cancer. All in my lungs.’’
Remy has been a lifelong smoker. Does he attribute his lung cancer to smoking?
“Nobody knows,’’ he answered. “My guess is yes. I was a smoker since I was 16 years old. I’m not smoking now, obviously. It’s a lot easier not to pick up that first one than it is to put down the last one.
“I don’t want to preach to smokers. I know that feeling. I know how difficult it is. Just don’t start. That’s the thing to do.’’
Remy was born in Fall River, went to Somerset High School, and broke into the big leagues as a second baseman for the California Angels in 1975. He was traded to the Red Sox before the 1978 season and was named to the American League All-Star team in ’78. He was a speedy .275 career hitter, forced to retire after 10 seasons because of multiple knee surgeries.
He first joined the Sox broadcast booth with partner Ned Martin in 1988. Over 30 years, he has also worked with Bob Kurtz, Sean McDonough, Don Orsillo, and last season with new partner Dave O’Brien. He has broadcast more than 3,000 Red Sox games and was named the first president of Red Sox Nation in online voting conducted by the team in 2007.
Depression, lung cancer, and a tragic family issue — Remy’s son pleaded guilty to the murder of Jennifer Martel in 2014 and is serving a life sentence without parole — prompted multiple leaves for Remy in recent seasons, and NESN reduced his workload. He re-upped for 2017 after last season.
Many Sox watchers believed he was reenergized on broadcasts during the 2016 season.
“I honestly didn’t feel any different,’’ Remy said. “I don’t know. I’m glad people feel that way. I didn’t see anything different than what I had been doing, it was just with a different partner.
“People may have felt that way. If they did, that’s great. That’s a hard one to answer. Maybe I really sucked for a couple of years. I don’t know.
“I’ve worked with five different guys. There’s always an adjustment period because everyone has a different personality. But I think it went well. Going into our second season, we’ll be even better because we’ve got a year under our belt.
“I’ve been lucky to work with talented guys. Those guys are the professionals, not me. You kind of take on the personality of the guys you are working with. I think whoever you work with brings something different out of you. It’s my job to adapt to somebody’s personality.’’
Like most Sox fans, he is excited about the team’s prospects for 2017.
“I can’t wait,’’ said Remy. “All the Patriots stuff got me so excited. I can’t wait for spring training. I see them as the elite team in the AL East, without question. They have the type of pitching that’s going to take them possibly to the promised land.
“I know they’re going to miss [David] Ortiz, but they’ve got enough offensive talent to take them through with the pitching they’ve got. You’ve got to stay healthy. If they do that, I don’t see anybody now that can compare to them on paper. It’s exciting to look forward to.’’
The 2007 Boston baseball season probably represents the peak of popularity for Remy and the Red Sox. The Sox were world champs for the second time in four seasons, NESN ratings were sky-high, and “RemDawg” and Orsillo were at the top of their games. That was before Remy had the lung cancer and the depression in 2008 and 2009.
But the darkest days were still ahead for Remy and a lot of other people. In August 2013, Jared Remy was arrested for the murder of Martel, the mother of Jared’s young daughter, Arianna. Jared pleaded guilty a year later and is serving a life sentence without parole at the correctional center in Shirley. Jerry Remy and his wife, Phoebe, have maintained contact with Jared.
“We talk to him on the phone and we visit,’’ said Jerry. “He’s still our son.’’
They see their granddaughter every three weeks.
“It never goes away,’’ said Remy. “It’s something you think about every day. It was the most horrible time of our life, and other people’s lives as well — obviously the Martels.
“That feeling never, ever goes away. We live with that, and I’m sure they live with it, every day of our lives. It’s been very, very difficult, but you’ve got to keep moving somehow. I don’t say that to sound cruel or mean, but there’s therapy in what I do.
“I still have a tremendous passion for my job and it’s also good therapy for me. It’s a touchy one. I hate to say the wrong thing and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Believe me, there’s not a day that goes by that that’s not in our thoughts.’’