(This isn’t Giants related, but some of my followers may know I also follow the Red Sox.)
Jon Lester was just a 22-year-old rookie when he was diagnosed with a rare but treatable form of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma in 2006. During the following offseason, he received chemotherapy treatments at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (named after the former MLB pitcher who passed away from cancer at age 45).
"I hate hospitals to begin with," [Lester] says. "I hate needles. I hate anything related to doctors. Getting blood drawn every 10 days … it drags on. You’re tired all the time. You want to do stuff, but you can’t. You’ve got to watch where you go because of germs. It’s not something you would wish upon anybody."
It took 6 rounds of chemotherapy for doctors to finally tell him he was in remission. But he was also told it would be a five-year process before he could be declared cancer-free.
The following year, Lester was able to begin his comeback on July 23rd against the Cleveland Indians. He picked up the win after 6 IP, 2 R, 5 H & 6 K. But his most memorable “comeback” moment would be starting and winning Game 4 of the 2007 World Series to clinch the Red Sox victory. It was a no-brainer for him to win the Red Sox’s annual Tony Conigliaro, given to players who “overcome an obstacle and adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage”. Lester also received the MLB’s 2008 Hutch Award (Yes, named after that same Fred Hutchinson.) for exemplifying “fighting spirit and competetive desire”. Also in 2008, Lester threw his first major league no-hitter.
"I feel like my son graduated and my son threw a no-hitter…It’s probably selfish on my part to even say something like that. But I think it’s obvious how we feel about this kid." - Terry Francona
"Through everything I’ve been through, [Francona] has been like a second dad to me."- Jon Lester
Now, that five years of waiting has come to an end. Jon Lester has “officially” been cancer-free. So far in the 2011 season, Lester is 14-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 156 strikeouts.
Congratulations, Jon Lester. You are an inspiration and an amazing pitcher.