Sunday, August 3, 2014

Yellow Vest, Red Sox, and Cancer

I drove up to Massachusetts yesterday to visit family and watch my brother ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge, the annual bike ride that raises money for cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. My brother is one of about 6000 riders who are working to raise $40 million this weekend.

We met Mike at the Lakeville stop, where he and his teammates stopped for about 15 minutes to rest and fill water bottles. And then he was off again. We knew he was wearing a yellow vest, but he saw us before we saw him. We're proud of him for putting so much work into this every year. He's already more than $1000 over his $5000 fundraising goal, but it's not too late to donate to him.

Thanks again, Mike. Keep up the good work.


The other bit of cancer-related athletic news over the last few days was Jon Lester getting traded by the Red Sox to the Oakland A's. I'll miss him.

I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again.

Jon Lester is a Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor. He was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive type, in 2006, his rookie year. He responded well to chemo and came back the next year, pitching well, and winning game 4 of the World Series for the Sox.

I was diagnosed just a few months after the World Series. When we told our kids (who were 10, 8, and 6 at the time), I sat between my sons on the couch with my arms around them. I think the 6 and 8 year olds didn't fully understand what was going on, by my oldest, Peter, certainly knew what cancer was, and knew it was not a good thing. His body stiffened when I said I had NHL, a type of cancer. I said to him, "Peter, you've heard of NHL before." He said he hadn't. "Yes you have," I said. "It's what Jon Lester had."

I felt his whole body relax. Now, Lester had a different kind of NHL than I did, much more aggressive, but that didn't matter. Jon Lester made it back, and made it back big, and that was good enough for us.

A few months later, Lester pitched a no-hitter. I was flipping through channels when I came across the game and saw that he was going into the last inning with the no-no. I ran upstairs and woke Peter up so we could watch together. It was a great moment, and another reason for Peter to feel OK.

And then he won two more games in the 2014 World Series, made 3 All Star games, and has generally been an awesome guy and a great player.

I wore my Lester shirt for all six of my Rituxan treatments. It became a good luck charm. I believe in monoclonal antibodies more than I believe in luck, but I wore the shirt anyway. And I wore it yesterday when I cheered on my brother.

There's a chance Lester will come back to Boston next year, since he's a free agent in October. That would be nice. But even if he moves on to someplace else, he'll always have my appreciation and affection for getting my son through a tough time.

Good luck this year, Mr. Lester.

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