Diekman overcoming colon surgery

Left-hander feeling 'great,' eyeing second-half return

Diekman overcoming colon surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Jake Diekman can't throw, run, ride an exercise bike or lift anything more than 5-10 pounds. He has a colostomy bag attached to his abdomen and is not going to pitch until at least the All-Star break.

But, on reporting day for Rangers pitchers and catchers, Diekman was easily the happiest guy in camp now that he is almost three weeks removed from colon surgery.

"I feel great now," Diekman said. "I have no more lower back pain. I just feel pretty darn healthy right now. Hopefully I'll be 100 percent, like the best I've ever felt since I was freakin' 10 years old."

Diekman is 30, so that's how long he has been dealing with ulcerative colitis, a long-term condition that results in inflammation and ulcers in the colon and the rectum.

After years of trying to control it with medication, Diekman decided to finally undergo surgery to have his colon removed when the condition seemed to get worse in December.

"I tried the three most potent drugs they make for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease," Diekman said. "I've tried the best biological medicine they make and none of them seemed to work. We talked to a surgeon in Dallas, talked to a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic and I talked to my GI doctor in Nebraska. They all three recommended I have this done because it's not going to get any better. So we went with Mayo and they did it from there."

The surgery was performed on Jan. 25. There isn't much he can do in Spring Training -- especially since he is wearing a colostomy bag -- but he wanted to be around his teammates. He was having great fun with closer Sam Dyson, his best buddy who dropped in after the surgery.

"I stole his food from him," Dyson said.

Diekman also wants people to understand what ulcerative colitis is and how it can be beaten.

"I feel like for the most part it's invisible to people," Diekman said. "People don't really know it's there. It's not like a disease that you see on the outside of people. It's one that happens underneath clothing and inside. … It can ruin your life.

"For me, we were at the GI floor at the Mayo Clinic and there were probably 15 other people who had the surgery and I was in the best shape. I'm 30, I'm pretty athletic. But [for] some people ... it took its toll on their bodies. That's really tough to see."

Diekman also remains active in the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America so he can be part of the outreach.

"That's the biggest thing," Diekman said. "If people could hopefully see the journey and not be so scared. If they see me going through it, maybe they're not so scared if they're on the fence of doing the surgery or not, or if they have the surgery upcoming, hopefully it kind of helps them cope.

"It's scary, don't get me wrong. I was in the anesthesia room and I'm thinking I'm going to wake up with a bag on for I don't know how long. That part is scary but you just have to trust the process and have a good attitude. That's the biggest thing. I could sit at home and mope and be bored or I could come here and have a great time."

The next step will be another surgery in April. A third one could be performed in June, but Diekman said that one might not be necessary.

"Just depends on what the doctors say," Diekman said. "I have to wait for the pathology reports and my blood work to come back."

The goal is to be back pitching by the All-Star break. Or sooner.

"Whatever the doctors tell me, I'll probably push it a little bit," Diekman said.

The All-Star break is five months away. That could be a long wait, but being symptom-free after 20 years of dealing with ulcerative colitis easily makes Diekman the happiest guy in Rangers camp.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.