The Boston Red Sox, who lost 21 of 30 games in August and have seen their chance of winning either the AL East or the AL Wild Card disappear, have had numerous key players go down, including Captain Jason Varitek, slugger David Ortiz and closer Jonathan Papelbon. But the news that rookie starting pitcher John Lester has lymphoma left everyone stunned and considering a lot more than the game of baseball.
Last Monday, Lester (7-2, 4.76 ERA) was placed on the DL due to back pain. In testing for the cause of the pain, doctors discovered enlarged lymph nodes. Lester, who is 22, has a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
The cancer starts in the bodyâ€™s lymph system. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma is one of various cancers classified as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is responsive to chemotherapy. The effectiveness of treatment is primarily dictated by what stage the cancer is in when first treated. It can occur at any age with younger patients tending to respond better to treatment.
The AP reported that veteran reliever Mike Timlin said, “It was pretty quiet. That’s part of our family in here and we’re all astonished. It’s his life. It’s not him not being able to get out of the sixth inning.” Timlin added, “He’s 22. That’s a long future not to have if you come up with an illness that you can’t get rid of so we are praying for him.â€?
Of course any player will tell you that whether youâ€™re winning or losing this type of situation puts everything in perspective. Timlin, who was an anchor on the 2004 Red Sox come-from-behind World Championship team, noted, “Winning baseball games, yeah, that’s great. Losing baseball games, no, that’s not very much fun. But dealing with horrible things in human life, that’s a whole lot worse than losing.”
All bets are off on the Red Sox to finish in the money this season and all bets are on Lester to beat the biggest challenge of his life.