Written by Peter Kusnic
The object is survival. That’s what the pitcher says to himself as he winds up and throws the ball.
The pitcher is Shawn Felty, and he’s playing in an alumni softball tournament in metro Washington, D.C. Surprisingly, five weeks before this game, Felty (A&S ’93) was in risky surgery to remove cancerous tumors. Recovery was supposed to take at least six weeks.
But Felty wanted to pitch for his Pitt team in the upcoming series. So, within three weeks of the surgery he was walking laps from his kitchen to his living room. A week later he was walking outside and, before long, jogging. His surgeon cleared him to play in the tournament, where all of his Pitt teammates wore gold arm bands to honor someone extraordinary—their pitcher, Shawn Felty. Out of 70 teams in the 2008 tournament, the Pitt team finished in the top three. There were hugs and tears.
Only a year before, at age 37, Felty—who works in computer science at the U.S. Department of Defense—had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer and given an 11 percent chance of survival. Then the cancer spread to his liver. An oncologist pronounced the 13 tumors inoperable, but when a surgeon proposed an experimental operation, Felty sprang at the chance.
Now, he’s involved with the Colon Club, an organization that educates people about colon cancer. Recently, he modeled for the group’s 2010 calendar, called the “Colondar,” bearing both a smile and the scars left behind by surgery.
Felty, though, continues to battle. Late this summer, the cancer recurred, and he is blogging about his situation at http://allittakesisguts.blogspot.com. Day by day, his motto helps him rally: “We have one more game.”