Angels pitching coach is back after thyroid cancer surgery

Mike Butcher, the current pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels, has recently recovered from papillary thyroid cancer, following surgery to remove a nodule on his thyroid gland, ESPN reports.

A former professional baseball player himself - he pitched in relief for the Angels between 1992 and 1995 - Butcher has been welcomed back by players, fans and hundreds of anonymous well-wishers, according to

The 45-year-old was first diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in January, after a doctor checking him for bone spurs detected a small nodule on his thyroid gland. Butcher told the website that his diagnostician was amazed that the physician noticed the lump, since it ended up being approximately half a centimeter across.

Health authorities agree that a physician's prognosis is directly related to the size of a detected thyroid nodule. The Columbia University Department of Surgery notes that many papillary thyroid cancer nodules are too small to feel.

Butcher was relieved to find out that his thyroid cancer was in an early stage. On February 10, less than a month after his diagnosis, the coach had the nodule removed along with some of his lymph nodes, the Los Angeles Times reports.

He told the newspaper that his speech is largely unaffected, though he is still working on his ability to yell at his players.

Butcher told ESPN that his doctors assured him that his nearly 20-year tobacco chewing habit likely had nothing to do with the appearance of the disease, but the coach and cancer survivor has stopped chewing tobacco anyway.

"You'll never see me with a dip again, and I can say, 'Never,'" Butcher told the news source. He added that he appreciated the support of numerous people, many of them anonymous, during his quick recovery.

Butcher was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer just four years shy of the median age of diagnosis, which is 49, according to the National Cancer Institute. Approximately one in 111 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of thyroid cancer in their lifetime, the organization estimates.