Thursday, July 12, 2001 | 9:58 a.m.
Lying in an isolation room in a New York City hospital fighting off one of the deadliest forms of cancer, Izzy Marion DiMaria hoped for the day he might return to the baseball diamond.
"The first thing I asked my doctor was, 'When can I coach again?' " said DiMaria, longtime American Legion coach for Las Vegas High and one-time Las Vegas Strip hairdresser to the stars who was married to Connie Francis. "He told me, just get better."
Diagnosed with multiple myeloma -- cancer of the bone marrow -- in 1999, DiMaria has spent the past two years waging war against the deadly disease. His fight for survival took him to hospitals from Las Vegas to Houston to New York City and finally, three months ago, back home.
"It was pretty touch and go there for a while," DiMaria, 69, said. "I was in isolation, being fed intravenously...in bed for three months."
DiMaria's treatment included painful bone marrow aspirate procedures, heavy doses of chemotherapy, blood transfusions and finally, a bone marrow transplant. DiMaria lost much of his body weight, as well as his hair.
But just as he dreamed he would, DiMaria is back in baseball, managing the Wildcats' summer squad, along with son and head coach Gino. The team is 6-3 in conference play and in the thick of the playoff hunt.
"It was weird when I first went out there. The uniform didn't fit. I looked like a scarecrow," said DiMaria, who has coached for 25 years. "But it's great to be back. Everybody's been so great to me -- the coaches, the players. I feel very privileged to be coaching these kids."
To help keep DiMaria out of the summer sun, area coaches Tom Appleyard (Durango), Mike Kazek (Basic) and Jesse Medellin (Eldorado) re-arranged portions of their schedules to allow Las Vegas to play most of its contests at 8 p.m.
DiMaria says he's 75-80 percent better but knows he still has healing to do, with more procedures and tests in his immediate future. He offers daily thanks for a family that supported him during his ordeal, as well as to his many doctors, including Southern Nevada specialist Joseph Quagliana.
"I can't believe I got this, but you have to go along with the cards you're dealt," DiMaria said. "I've had a great life, but I'd like to live more."
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