Royals’ Alex Gordon on his mom: She beat cancer twice. She’s a fighter

Royals manager Ned Yost talks about 12-2 rout of Astros

Royals manager Ned Yost speaks to reporters following his club's 12-2 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, on May 7, 2019. It was Yost's 700th win with the franchise.
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Royals manager Ned Yost speaks to reporters following his club's 12-2 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, on May 7, 2019. It was Yost's 700th win with the franchise.

Royals left fielder Alex Gordon doesn’t take Mother’s Day for granted, nor Major League Baseball’s participation in breast cancer awareness activities and events surrounding Mother’s Day. After all, he feels lucky to have his own mother, Leslie, with him each year after she’s survived two bouts with cancer.

Leslie, who was diagnosed at separate times with breast cancer and cancer of the appendix, will be at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and meet with survivors prior to the Royals-Philadelphia Phillies game.

“She beat cancer twice,” Gordon said Wednesday before the Ryoals played the Astros. “She’s a fighter. She’s a survivor. It’s something that you look back on now, especially on Mother’s Day, and you’re grateful for that everything she’s done for you — but even more grateful that she’s still here.”

In the winter of 2003-04, Gordon was on campus at the University of Nebraska, about 20 minutes from where he grew up, preparing for the upcoming college season. He received a call from his mother letting him know that she’d just had surgery because she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“That was the first time I’d heard of it, and I was like, ‘Mom! What are you doing. You’ve need to let me know when you’re going through stuff like this.’ That’s just kinda how she is, she didn’t want to bother me. She knew I was busy with baseball, so she wanted me to focus.

“That’s the kind of person she is. She’s very selfless. I was kind of mad that she didn’t tell me until after the fact because I wanted to be there for her, but at the same time I was grateful that she caught it early enough and she was able to recover. That night, I went over there and spent the night with her in the hospital.”

Leslie kept Gordon and his three brothers (he’s the second oldest) in the dark about her diagnosis. In hindsight, Gordon said his mother lived her life putting he and his brothers first. She worked late nights as a nurse, had an antique business during the day and would still cart the boys around from place to place.

The second cancer diagnosis, for which she was treated at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, came after Alex’s first child, Max, had been born and he’d been playing for the Royals.

“The second one was a lot harder because when they caught it, it was pretty severe,” Gordon said. “The doctors didn’t have a lot of hope for it. We just did a lot of praying. She came out on top, so it’s something that we’re thankful for and grateful for, that it worked out. She’s just a fighter, so she was able to get through it.”

Prior to Sunday’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day game, the Royals will honor Jane Broxterman as the “Honorary Bat Girl” as part of Major League Baseball’s “Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer” initiative coinciding with Mother’s Day.

Broxterman, a resident of Basehor, Kansas, practices internal medicine as a physician in The University of Kansas Health System, where she cares for and treats breast cancer survivors as well as women living with metastatic cancer. She’s also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a rare and aggressive cancer, in May 2018.

She underwent treatment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, before she returned to practicing medicine full-time in March.

Royals players will continue with the tradition of using pink bats and wearing pink wristbands to raise awareness and funds, through donations and auction proceeds.

The Royals Charity 50/50 raffle presented by Edelman and Thompson, on Sunday both in stadium and online (starting immediately following the conclusion of the game on Saturday), will benefit Komen Kansas & Western Missouri.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.