Overcoming colon cancer for amazing comeback to baseball

Fumihito Haraguchi, a catcher for the Japanese professional baseball team Hanshin Tigers, was diagnosed with colon cancer when he was 26. After undergoing laparoscopic surgery and chemotherapy, followed by rehabilitation, he made an amazing comeback to baseball. Now back in uniform, we asked him about his recent battle with cancer and his thoughts on being a cancer survivor.

Diagnosed with colon cancer in a medical checkup

After graduating from Teikyo High School, Fumihito Haraguchi began his career in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Hanshin Tigers. In 2016, he was selected for the All-Star Game and had become an integral member of the team as both a catcher and a hitter. However, when he had a medical checkup and colonoscopy prior to the 2019 season, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Haraguchi commented, “Looking back to 2018, I was feeling exhausted, having blood in my stools, and not feeling great. That is why I took the medical checkup in the hope that everything would end up being OK, but instead was diagnosed with colon cancer, and my mind went blank when I heard the news.”

Choosing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery

Until this, Haraguchi had never needed surgery and had never even been hospitalized. Leading up to the operation, he felt uncertain and fearful, wondering “Will I be able to see my daughter grow up and spend time with my wife in the years ahead? Will I be able to resume my baseball career?” Determined to recover and return to his professional baseball career, he underwent minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. The surgery took five hours, and four ports were placed in the abdominal wall. Despite experiencing slight trouble with needing to go to the bathroom more often than usual and having gastric distress after consuming dairy products, he says that his body recovered relatively quickly because the surgery was not an open abdominal operation.

Returning to his passion, baseball

After his surgery in January 2019, Haraguchi could surprisingly resume training the following month. In May, he returned to the playing field with the farm team, and in June, he made his return to the top team and hit an RBI double in his first game back. That season, he made an amazing comeback, appearing in 43 games. However, he was still undergoing chemotherapy up until July while still playing. Haraguchi states, “My doctor selected medication that would allow me to still play baseball while taking it. In addition, the baseball organization adjusted my daily training routine according to the condition of my body. Thanks to all the assistance from medical professionals, the organization, and everyone else that supported me in my recovery, I was able to return to my beloved game of baseball.”

My mission to share my experience

After his comeback, Haraguchi announced that his colon cancer was “Stage 3b.” He decided to disclose this information to send a message to those who are battling cancer like him that they can recover and return to their jobs and lives while being treated.
Although Haraguchi’s cancer was not detected at the early stage, he reflected that having the colonoscopy at his medical checkup saved him. “Late detection can lead to the advancement of the stage and progression of the illness. So, if you feel or notice anything different, don’t hesitate, go to the hospital and get tested,” says Haraguchi. Drawing on his experience as an athlete that battled and overcame cancer and was able to continue his passion for professional baseball, Haraguchi sums up his feelings in a friendly, yet assertive tone that it is his mission to share his experiences with as many people as possible.

The conditions, feelings and treatment of each patient may vary from person to person. Please consult your doctor for your diagnosis and treatment.