Outlook Good for Cancer-Stricken Dennis O'Neill

(from Santa Anita notes)
The outlook is good for Dennis O'Neill, the 42-year-old brother of trainer Doug O'Neill who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but the experience has put life in perspective for him.

Dennis O'Neill is keenly interested in how Stevie Wonderboy, part of his brother's stable, fares in his 3-year-old debut in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 14. Dennis, an important part of his brother Doug's meteoric rise to the top of the heap among Southern California trainers, picked out Stevie Wonderboy for owner Merv Griffin at the Calder sales a year.

But shortly after the colt won the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 29 at Belmont Park, Dennis learned he had cancer.

"The doctor's prognosis is good," said Dennis. "I caught it early. I was very, very lucky and I've got an 80 or 90 percent chance of survival, which is good enough for me. I feel like I'm going to beat it.

"My brother (Danny, who died at the age of 38) had melanoma. I know when I went with Danny to his doctor, the doctor was crying when we walked in. That's never a good thing. They just told him it was terminal and he was not going to last more than year, and he died a year later. So being told I had cancer was obviously very, very stressful. After two or three weeks of the tests, both Doug and I were just freaking out. But the cancer ended up being stage one, which is the most treatable. I got it early and was really, really lucky.

"It's just a big slap in the head to realize how good things are for us. Chemo (therapy) is kicking my ass but I have to deal with that for six months. After that I should be all right."