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An open letter to Jon Lester

I beat non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma -- twice. So can you.

Posted: Wednesday September 6, 2006 2:05PM; Updated: Wednesday September 6, 2006 3:34PM
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Dear Jon,

I know you don't know me -- and to be honest, I didn't know much about you until last week -- but we share something in common. We were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I know; I wish we shared something else in common too. Although I bet as a couple of twentysomething guys from the West Coast we probably do.

I know you must have a million thoughts racing through your mind right now. I know I did. I've been there -- twice. Last year around this time I was just being released from the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center after I had relapsed. It was my second battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after initially beating it four years earlier. I had to spend the entire month of August in a small hospital room while I underwent intensive chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant. Yeah, heavy stuff for anyone to deal with, especially a 25-year-old trying to enjoy his summer.

Much like you, I was back east when I was diagnosed. I had everything I had ever wanted in life: the dream job in the dream city. Things couldn't have been better. But cancer has never been known for its impeccable timing. It doesn't care whether you're a rookie writer at Sports Illustrated or a rookie pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. So there I was, much like you are now, trying to deal with the news. Why me? Why now? Why couldn't I be like everyone else my age and be in the hospital for a broken bone or a bad cold?

The questions cluttered my mind for days. I would go for long walks to no place in particular trying to sort things out. I would walk so far, for so long, without thinking that I would get lost. As if somehow the farther I walked, the farther I would get from reality. Yet when I returned home, things were the same. Not the same old, same old I was yearning for, but the same new reality of the nightmare I couldn't wake up from.

Reality suddenly takes on a whole new meaning now, doesn't it? I bet the biggest worry you had a couple of weeks ago was how you were going to help get the Sox get back in the playoff hunt, and now here you are getting ready to embark on the fight of your life. I remember being paranoid about meeting deadline on some story when I was diagnosed last year. Needless to say, the story got in a little late.

I'm not sure what type of treatment you will be getting, but chances are it will be similar to the one I had when I was first diagnosed. I went through six cycles of chemotherapy, which was a combination of CHOP, an acronym for the names of each chemical that went into my body, and Rituxan, one of the newest drugs available for treating non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.