Friday, November 4, 2016

Cubbies and Cancer (or, Lester and Lymphoma)

I've told this story a few times before, but I'm going to tell it again:

When I was diagnosed, my kids were 6, 8, and 10 years old. My wife and decided quickly that, even with the kids at that young age, we wanted to be completely honest with them about everything that was going on. We knew that they would figure out that there was a problem, and we thought that what they imagined would be worse than the truth. So honesty was our approach.

So when we told them, I sat on the couch my arm around each of my sons. My oldest was old enough at 10 to really understand what was happening, and he tensed up at the word "cancer." I told him it was a kind of non-hodgkin's lymphoma. "You've heard of that before," I told him. "It's the kind of cancer that Jon Lester had."

And I felt his body immediately relax, and he let out a big sigh.

Jon Lester was a pitcher for my beloved Boston Red Sox. In fall 2006, he was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, a much more aggressive form of NHL that Follicular Lymphoma (though my son didn't need to know that).  He came back the next season, and pitched well, winning the clinching game of the World Series.

I was diagnosed about 3 months later.

And about 4 months after that, he threw a no-hitter. I woke my son up so he could watch the last inning.

If you're not a baseball fan, and the details don't mean much to you, that's OK. You probably get the message -- Jon Lester was a hero to me, and to my son, and he got us through some tough times, just watching him. I wore a shirt with Lester's name and number on it for all of my Rituxan treatments.

So I was sad when he left the Red Sox two seasons ago to pitch for the Chicago Cubs, but that was OK. He gave me what I needed, and I wished him well.

And the well-wishes worked! A couple of days ago, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, breaking a streak that was even longer than the Red Sox's streak. Lester played a big role all season for the Cubbies. He wasn't the only hero, but he played a big role.

But even cooler than that?

Another of the Cubs' heroes was Anthony Rizzo. In 2008, Rizzo was playing for a Red Sox minor league team when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Lester helped him through the experience.

And now they both have World Series rings, make lots of money, and give a bunch of it away to help with cancer research and to support families of cancer patients.

I haven't done a "Nodes of Gold" episode in a long time, so you can consider this one of them.

Of course, a World Series winner means there is a World Series loser, and in this case, that was Cleveland. And the Cleveland manager is Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

He's the same Terry Francona who sent my kids a letter in March 2008, telling them that the Red Sox were cheering for me.

So no Red Sox victory this year, but plenty to celebrate anyway. And it brought back some nice memories of happy times.


Something else to celebrate: abstracts for the ASH (American Society of Hematology) meeting are online. As usual, I plan to write about the ones that look promising or interesting to me.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a nice blog to read this morning!
And how exciting fior the Cubs! That 7 th game was something!
Thanks as always,