In February, former Baltimore Orioles player and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr­.—he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007— received a prostate cancer diagnosis following a routine checkup. Ripken kept the news private until recently, when he also announced he has made a full recovery, according to MASNsports.com.

“My PSA [prostate-specific antigen] was just inching up a little, and there was movement in my PSA, which was well within my norm,” said Ripken, age 60, in a Zoom conference call. “For someone my age, it wasn’t really alarming. There could be other reasons why it comes up.”

However, in Ripken’s case, the reason was prostate cancer. Luckily, his cancer was caught at an early stage, so he made a quick choice about his treatment. He didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. “The answer to do surgery was…the right decision to make, and that was the easy part of it,” he said. “But then getting yourself to do it was another one.”

He scheduled his surgery scheduled, but then the coronavirus crisis struck the United States. As a result, he feared his procedure would be delayed. Ripken called his surgeon and had his procedure date moved up. “I went in early morning and had the surgery, walked around the hospital 3:30 in the afternoon and went home at 6:30 that night,” he recalled. “The cancer was all contained in the prostate; they did a pathology report afterward and confirmed that was the case.”

Ripken is currently in remission. A three-month test to determine whether his PSA was undetectable revealed that it was.

During his own ordeal, Ripken remembered his father, Cal Ripken Sr., a legendary baseball coach for the Baltimore Orioles who died of lung cancer at age 63 in 1999. “He didn’t get checkups,” he said. “Even though we had all the medical stuff in the world, he refused to get physicals and all that, so by the time he realized what he had, [his] options were limited.”

While he didn’t initially disclose his condition, Ripken now wants to help encourage men to get regular exams and tests, such as the PSA test, which screens men for prostate cancer. He doesn’t want men to wait till it’s too late.

“There’s a saying that most men don’t die because of prostate cancer, they die with it” Ripken said. “It seems like it’s a normal occurrence that, as you live and age, that’s what happens, and usually it’s dealt with. But with treatments and diagnosing it early, there’s been a lot of progress made, and it seems it’s moving all the time.”

Ripken says this helped turn his fear into hope and helped him realize that early detection can result in a good prognosis. 

For related coverage, read “Swinging for the Fences to Defeat Prostate Cancer” and  “These Star Baseball Athletes Get Real About Prostate Cancer.”