Published October 30, 2007
Whether you follow baseball or not or you like the Boston Red Sox or not, everyone in the U.S. can celebrate the great victory Sunday night by starting pitcher Jon Lester.
Some of us more than others.
If you follow baseball, you may know the story.
A little over a year ago, Jon Lester was a rookie in the big leagues and winning baseball games regularly at an age where he was barely legal enough to buy a beer at the bars near Fenway Park. Then, during an office visit to a doctor for back pain, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.
This is where Lester and I — despite a difference in age and the fact that I live far from Red Sox nation — have something very much in common.
Nearly four years ago, during a doctor's visit for a regular check up, fate threw me a "high hard one" as well. Ironically, we both had the same dreaded disease, non-Hodgkin’s anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. Mine required surgery (which Lester didn't have to endure) but we each went through the six chemo treatments.
My doctor, when preparing me for chemo, used the medical term "suck" for what the treatments would be like. Chemo makes you sick. It drains you physically. Trying to exercise and staying in any kind of shape is nearly impossible. For Lester to bounce back in less than a year speaks volumes about his physical and spiritual make up.
As Lester was getting back into shape by playing for the Red Sox minor league teams, my daughter Marisa, and I followed his progress every step of the way. Marisa is a sophomore at Northeastern University, which is a 10 minute walk from Fenway. She has totally bought into Red Sox Nation.
When Lester returned to the line-up July 23 of this year and beat the Indians, we shared tears of joy. As Lester played his way back into shape this summer, we followed his ups and downs. After Marisa went back to Northeastern this summer, she managed to get to a couple of games and hang in the Fenway neighborhood after Red Sox wins.
Right after it was announced that Lester was going to pitch game 4 of the World Series, Marisa called me at the office and said, "Dad I bought you a present today."
Then, Marisa told me a story. It turns out a lot of people have been touched by the Jon Lester story including four fans from several colleges and universities in Boston. This group of young women has established a Web site and fund-raising operation: www.thelesterproject.com.
The group has sold bracelets for the last year and contributed that money to the Boston-based cancer research fund, The Jimmy Fund. The bracelets cost $6 each plus $2.53 for shipping. Cheap. Easy.
As a way of honoring Lester's triumph Sunday night, I'm wearing the bracelet because I want people ask about it. I'll tell them about Lester's winning fight and mine. I'll tell them what I'm telling you: Get a check up. Lester thought he had a bad back. It turned out to be cancer. I didn't have any symptoms. My doctor found the problem following a routine blood test. Mike Lowell, who just won the series MVP and beat testicular cancer in 1999, never had a symptom either.
And the other thing — $8.53 is peanuts to help research that can save lives. One of the drugs used in my chemo treatments didn't exist until two years before I was diagnosed. I'm told that it has improved my chances for a long life 10-fold. In the year that the Web site has been around it's raised more than $56,000.
Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, when Lester was getting knocked around this season, told Boston sports writers, "Two or three days are not a whole lot, we want this kid for years."
It's the kind of winning attitude that helped the Sox come out on top, and makes the $8.53 seem like a small investment to pay to help the Jon Lesters of this world live long productive lives.
Don Fair is coordinating producer at the Fox News Channel Los Angeles Bureau. Don celebrates four years of cancer remission next year. He throws right. Bats left.