March 10, 2010

Remy: I'm fighting depression

— BOSTON — Jerry Remy sat in the back of the Fenway Park press box. He smiled but also tightened his jaw at times. Tears formed.

''I'm anxious,'' he said. ''I'm not going to lie. I feel a little nervous.''

The confident, smooth, iconic RemDawg didn't return Wednesday to Fenway. Instead the real, very human Jerry Remy came by.

Remy, 56, the beloved color commentator for Red Sox telecasts, made his first appearance for a ballgame at Fenway since he took a leave of absence from NESN on May 6.

The leave was announced as necessary for Remy to recover from infection and exhaustion, which were complications from lung cancer surgery last November.

That was partially true.

''I've been fighting depression the last couple of months,'' Remy said before announcing it during a brief visit to the NESN booth.

''I've been in therapy for that, trying to get the meds right, trying to get all that right.''

There was no hesitation as Remy explained his trouble. Depression used to be a taboo subject. You didn't admit to THAT kind of trouble. Hopefully such ignorance is fading.

Remy's announcement can only help erase that stigma, giving a boost to others.

''I'm not ashamed of anything,'' Remy said. ''People deal with cancer all the time. People deal with depression. I'm not embarrassed by that.

''If there's any way I can help anybody, what the hell. People go through these things. I'm not immune to all that.''

The seed to the depression, Remy said, began last year when doctors detected a black spot on his lung. It was cancer. Remy had it removed.

''That couldn't have gone better,'' he said. ''There was no follow-up treatment. No chemo, no radiation. It's the things that happened afterward that kind of threw me for a loop.''

First came the infection in the lung, diagnosed in late January. Remy lost 25 pounds but still hurried his recovery to get to spring training.

The NESN schedule is light in spring training. Remy thought he was OK. But then came the grind of the regular season.

''Once the season started I had a big problem,'' Remy said. ''I wasn't strong enough. Emotionally I wasn't ready and physically I wasn't ready. I started to crash.

''I knew right then and there that I was trying to trick myself into thinking I could do this.

''All the things together, it takes a lot out of you. Physically, when you get injured, you know you're going to get better. This is a little bit different. This messes with your mind a little.''

When the popular Remy took his leave, cards and letters by the boxful began arriving.

''At first it worked against me because I felt like I was letting people down,'' said Remy, who could watch the Red Sox but only on ESPN or FOX.

''The NESN games I can't watch. I'm supposed to be there. That makes me feel guilty,'' he said. ''It brings me down even more.''

Remy has improved. Last week he made his first appearance at Fenway since his leave, at the Paul McCartney concert. That led to Wednesday.

''This is kind of like a trial run, I guess,'' he said. ''I made it through (the McCartney concert) OK so I figured I would try, just to get back and see some of the guys downstairs, see (Terry Francona), some players, sit in on his press conference ''

Remy smiled: ''A simulated game.''

Remy plans to come back to the air this season. He won't say when. He already set two deadlines for himself (after the All-Star break and this week) and couldn't meet them. He expects a slow return, maybe doing only home games at first.

When Remy returns, he will have his humor. He said when he visited the booth he would tell people ''The reason that I'm depressed is that I have to listen to (partner Don) Orsillo.''

But Remy also shows a more serious side. Asked if being back with friends at Fenway is the best medicine, he almost cut off the questioner.

''The best medicine is your family,'' he said.

During those times when Remy didn't know how he would get out of bed, his wife and family were there. And now he's almost set to get back to work.

''People go through this stuff all the time. I consider myself very, very lucky. But it's been hard. No way around it.''

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@presherald.com

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