Jon Lester can relate to John Farrell on a level that most can’t.
Not only did Lester spend six seasons playing under Farrell — four seasons when Farrell was the Red Sox’s pitching coach (2007-10) and then two seasons after Farrell became Boston’s manager (2013-14) — but the left-hander, now with the Chicago Cubs, also fought cancer.
It’s a battle that Farrell, who announced Friday he’s been diagnosed with Stage 1 lymphoma, has started to fight. And it’s a battle that most, including Lester, expect the Red Sox skipper to win handily.
“I don’t think you really give John too much advice,” Lester told reporters Friday in Chicago. “If you know John, he’s pretty strong-willed. I’d imagine he’ll be fine. I’m sure it’s a little bit of a blow for his family. I’m sure he’ll be fine through this whole process.”
Lester was diagnosed with a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma in August 2006. He successfully combated the disease and returned to the mound in July 2007. The rest is history.
Farrell is optimistic he’ll nip his own lymphoma in the bud. Doctors caught the disease at an early stage Monday when Farrell underwent hernia surgery in Detroit. He’ll begin chemotherapy treatment next week at the world-renowned Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Obviously, we go pretty far back. I talked to him a little bit already,” Lester told reporters. “He seems very positive. Everything seems very positive. So that’s good. He’s in a very good place for it. Obviously, it’s one of the better places, if not the best place in the country, to be at if you do have cancer.”
Torey Lovullo, usually Boston’s bench coach, will manage the Red Sox for the remainder of the 2015 season as Farrell focuses on his treatment and recovery. Farrell, like Lester when it came to pitching, already is steadfast on eventually returning to work, though. The manager said Friday he fully intends to return to the dugout in 2016.
For now, Lester just wants Farrell to maintain a positive attitude during a tough time. Nothing can prepare someone for a bout with lymphoma, but positivity can help overcome it.
“It’s just one of those things you have to ride out,” Lester said. “You have to do what the doctors tell you to do. I don’t know the details of which he’ll be going through. I don’t know the type. Just know it’s lymphoma. It can be a million different things.
“It sounded very curable and very positive, from what I read and saw. That’s the most important thing, but I don’t think you can prepare for a situation like that. You just have to grind through it.”
Lester and Farrell developed a strong bond during their days together in Boston. They unfortunately now have one more thing in common, though their shared competitiveness bodes well for Farrell’s fight.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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