San Francisco Giants

Long-Time Member Of Giants' Broadcast Crew Turns Life-Threatening Diagnosis Into Help For Thousands Of Cancer Patients

How good has David Benzer's view of the past 39 years of San Francisco Giants baseball been?

So good, the folks with front row seats sit one row behind Benzer.

Benzer is a long-time member of the crew that broadcasts Giants games on TV. You will regularly find him operating the large, field-level television camera just to the home plate side of the visitors' dugout.

"One step over that white line and I'd be in the game," Benzer said.

Such close proximity not only allowed Benzer an unobstructed view of baseball history but afforded him the chance to get to know the ballplayers personally. Member of the Giants, as well as a rotating cast of visiting players, became his friends.

The combination proved intoxicating, Benzer admitted, and his identity became so wrapped up in what he did for a living the two became inexorably intertwined.

"It was my art and my passion," Benzer said.

The pinnacle of all of it had to be the fall of 2010: the Giant's first World Series championship in more than 40 years.

Which was quickly followed by the nadir.

Just 24 hours after the Giants victory parade that year, Benzer feeling ill, visited his doctor. With just a single look down Benzer's throat, a diagnosis was made.

"You got State IV cancer: throat, tongue, and lymph nodes," Benzer recalled the doctor telling him. Benzer asked if any tests were needed. The doctor said no. "I see it everywhere," Benzer said the doctor told him.

What followed were months of chemotherapy and radiation. It was absolutely brutal, Benzer said. "Because they take you right down to death and bring you back."

Benzer said, at his lowest point, he made a promise to God: "If you gave me a second chance I'd make a difference."

He did and Benzer lived up to his end of the bargain.

In 2011, Benzer started the Strike Out Fear Foundation. The main thrust of the non-profit is to remodel hospital waiting areas, adding large screen tv's, DVD players, and music systems. Benzer's goal is to create comfortable spaces where patients can relax and let go of some of the fear they carry with them.

Benzer says his experience taught him that the fear that came with a cancer diagnosis was almost as bad as the disease itself. "The fear really effects the cancer. She works together with that. She's almost fuel to it," Benzer said.

The foundation's work has since touched the lives of close to 50,000 cancer patients and more than 400,000 patient visits.

Benzer is happy to be visiting those places now, not as someone looking for help, but someone giving it.

"I'm really good at this. This is my mission in life," Benzer said.

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