East Boston Little League President Chuckie Cassaro is helping to coach the Senior Division Blue Jays this summer. This is Cassaro’s seventh year as president and it’s been his hard work and dedication, along with the efforts of an equally diligent board, that has given hundreds of East Boston youths an opportunity to play organized baseball in their own neighborhood. The league has become known, too, for its spectacular, season-ending banquets at Spinelli’s.
As the new season has begun and the ballparks in Eastie are bustling nightly with competitive baseball, Cassaro is continuing his personal health battle against kidney cancer.
“I’m going for immunotherapy once every three weeks at Mass General Hospital,” said Cassaro. “The therapy has basically saved me because I was taking a chemo pill prior to that and it just wasn’t working.”
Cassaro, 47, said his doctors originally wanted to change his medicine in March but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans.
“They finally switched my medicine in early May and that’s when the immunotherapy seemed to start working and turn everything around for me,” said Cassaro.
‘My fourth battle’
Chuckie is fighting “my fourth battle with cancer.”
“The cancer was first discovered in my [left] kidney in June, 2014,” said Chuckie. “I noticed blood in my urinary tract and went to see the doctors. Three or four days later, doctors were removing my whole kidney.”
In February, 2017, during his quarterly body scan at Mass General Hospital, cancer was detected in his lung.
“They noticed a little spot in my lung that was growing and getting bigger and bigger,” said Chuckie. “The doctors went in and removed the tumor in surgery. I recovered and was working out at the gym and feeling good.”
But in 2018, the cancer spread to his right lung. “The doctors removed a piece of my right lung. It was a really tough surgery.”
Last September Cassaro went to MGH for his regular scans “and everything looked good.”
But just weeks after that check-up, the kidney cancer [renal cell carcinoma] again struck his body below the bladder.
“Doctor tried to treat the cancer chemically with a chemo pill, but the side effects were just really tough and it wasn’t working,” said Chuckie.
In March, the plan was to begin immunotherapy, “but that’s when the COVID-19 hit.” Chuckie started immunotherapy in May and he says, “so far it’s been working.”
“The doctors at Mass General have been great,” he added.
The Support of his Family and Friends
According to Chuckie, the moral support from his network of family and friends has helped him immensely during his battle with cancer.
Chuck said his long-time companion, Christine, their son, CJ, his mother, Jane, his five older sisters, and his friends have rallied behind him and have been in touch on a daily basis.
“My family, especially my mother, has been at my home every day,” said Chuckie.
He is also grateful to his long-time friend, EBLL treasurer Dr. Robert Gilbride, and EBLL official Nick Free for their efforts in organizing the 2020 season during his recovery. “Dr. Gilbride checks in with me every day and my friend, Carlo Basile, has been so supportive. Carlo was a couple of years ahead me at Dom Savio. We were childhood friends at the Salesian Boys Club.”
Returning to Work and Regular Activities
Chuckie plans to return to his position as supervisor of Constitution Beach in East Boston soon. He has held that position for the past five years. He hopes to visit the gym and begin workouts.
“I’m trying to stay active. I’m trying to work out again at home,” said Chucky. “But it’s been an ordeal to say the least. It got really bad last Christmas Eve when I was rushed to the hospital. I was in the hospital with a tube in my kidney until Jan. 5. But my family was there with me every day, so we celebrated Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital.”
Another daily source of strength has been his dog, Jasmine, “who never left my side for a minute. “The bond between a man and his dog is so powerful,” said Chuckie.
He is optimistic about his health and pledges to continue to help young baseball players develop their skills in his position as president of East Boston Little League.
“The prognosis is good. The plan is for me to get stronger and better. I’m optimistic – I feel blessed that I’m able to get dressed every day and go outside and get some fresh air,” said Chuckie. “I hope to be working with my good friend, Dr. Robert Gilbride, in East Boston Little League for many years to come.”