Trey Mancini’s story inspires a Baltimore woman fighting cancer

BALTIMORE – Rena Barron was still traumatized by her stage 4 colon cancer in February of last year when a friend sent her a link to an article on Tre Mancini.

Mancini was at the time in his sixth year with the Orioles. Barron lived in Baltimore in between for 20 years, but was never a fan of baseball. You’ve never heard of Mancini before. But her 15-year-old son, Ellie, is a baseball fan and an Orioles fan.

Mancini’s story, how he overcame stage 3 colon cancer and eventually returned to playing baseball after missing the entire 2020 MLB season, resonated deeply with Barron, who thought it might strike a chord with her son, too.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect to talk to my son about,’” she said. “I knew it was something he could relate to. And just the fact that you see improved I wanted my son to see, and I wanted that to be his connection to this cancer. So it was perfect. Also for him at this age, as if it’s not great to have a mom with colon cancer, but it’s a little unpleasant if someone he loves, a baseball player, has gone through as well.”

She shared the story with Ellie, the eldest of her seven children and only son. Since then, when Rina underwent major surgery and extensive rounds of chemotherapy later, Elle made it a point to show her Mancini’s stats.

Rina wanted to surprise Eli with a trip to the Orioles game to see Mancini in person, but her attempts to contact him and the team were unsuccessful. She finally bought them tickets for a game at Camden Yards that was scheduled for late August, only to find out that Mancini had traded the Astros on August 1.

She started frantically communicating with the Astros. This time, I got a response.

On Thursday, before the opening of the Astros series against the Orioles – Mancini’s first match back in Baltimore since the trade – he finally met a mother and son whose story was a connection of hope during a dark and difficult time.

“I was really confused and wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Elle said of his mother’s diagnosis. “But knowing that (Mancini’s experience) made me feel better.”

Tre Mancini signs a baseball card for a 15-year-old Eli Barron fan Thursday in Baltimore. Eli and his mother Rina, who had stage 4 colon cancer in February 2021, rallied around the story of Mancini, who returned to play for the Orioles after being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.

Daniel Lerner / Staff

Rina and Ellie watched from the dirt behind the house plate as Mancini practiced batting before the game and practice field batting at first base on Thursday. When he was over and they started talking, it didn’t take long for Rena and Mancini to find common ground.

They found out they had seen the same oncologist at Johns Hopkins. Barron, who was undiagnosed 16 months after her diagnosis, had weekly chemotherapy, relaying her struggle with cold sensitivity. Mancini shared that it took him nearly six months to regain feeling on his toes after his last chemotherapy session.

Mancini signed a baseball card for Eli and listened intently as Rina explained how important this meeting was to them.

“Sports provide a really nice escape from what’s going on,” Mancini told them. “Even when I was playing it, watching football or whatever was really cool.”

Mancini was 27 years old and a professional athlete when a colonoscopy in 2020 revealed he had a malignancy.

Barron’s initial diagnosis, which came when she was a healthy and active 38-year-old, was also completely unexpected. The cancer was only discovered after her doctor ordered a colonoscopy based on the blood in her stool. Although she felt completely normal, the disease was already in an advanced stage.

While Barron has reduced the frequency of her chemotherapy treatments over the past several months, her cancer persists. But it is.

“I’m stubborn, which is fine because I don’t want to give up,” she said. “The easiest thing to do with cancer is to give up honestly. But I don’t do that.”

There are good days mixed with bad. When Barron gets frustrated, she has what she calls a “mental rolodex” for the names of people who have survived cancer. Mancini is one of them.

Like Mancini, who rallied the entire city of Baltimore behind him after he was diagnosed, Barron is grateful for the support of her family and community, and is determined to tackle the disease with as positive a mindset as she can.

“My life just got richer. I wouldn’t ask for cancer, but I would never give up on it,” Barron said. “Experience and what you gain, you become a healthier person – physically and emotionally. It really forces you to go to places you don’t want to go and that are easy to avoid. The whole world is brighter and richer.”

Among the vivid memories she will now cherish is a photo of Ellie meeting Mancini. On the field on Thursday, with a light breeze blowing in the air and one of his heroes standing in front of him, nothing else mattered.

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