I got the call April 10th. I was halfway out the door when I heard the diagnosis; the strange-looking mass they had removed from my chest tested positive for lymphoma. I’d have to make an appointment with an oncologist.
First, I had to get to work. It was a Friday afternoon and the Boston Red Sox were in New York to face the Yankees. It was the first week of the baseball season, and the team was off to a great start. That night, they’d win their third game of the year — a 19-inning game that lasted nearly seven hours.
It was the longest night of my life.
Somewhere around the 12th inning I called my wife, Kelley, to tell her the news. Other than a call to Lisa Scherber — a friend at the Jimmy Fund — I told no one else. I sat in the NESN Green Room as the Sox and Yankees recorded 114 outs.
I learned a lot about Marginal Zone b-cell Lyphoma over the next six weeks. I went through tests and waited for results to see if the cancer was anywhere else in my body.
It wasn’t. The mass had been removed and was confined to my skin. It may return, but it’s a slow-growing lymphoma and should be easily treatable if it does. I’ll get checkups every six months and haven’t seen any changes to my lifestyle.
Since then, life has gone on. My oldest son graduated from high school and chose a college. Boston got the Olympics, then lost them. That great start to the Red Sox season has been long forgotten.
As we turn the page to August, all of us at NESN are getting ready for the 14th annual Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon. It’ll be my 13th year serving as a host. Over the years we’ve helped raise more than $37 million for cancer research. I’ve met patients and their families and heard stories of courage and strength in the face of incredible odds.
This story isn’t one of those. I haven’t had to undergo life-altering treatments, and I haven’t had to make choices about my care. The reason I didn’t originally go public was because I didn’t want to dishonor those survivors who have had to fight off their cancer tooth and nail.
Yet I did get a glimpse into the frightening world of cancer. There were sleepless nights and long moments in the waiting room. And I got to experience the power of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute first hand. It’s a remarkable place, a place that makes you feel you have a fighting chance even as the worst-case scenarios go through your mind.
Since Dan Shaughnessy first wrote about my story in The Boston Globe, I’ve heard from friends and Red Sox fans offering their support. Your support, and the support I’ve gotten from my family along the way, has meant the world to me.
That’s why I’m sharing my story. Cancer used to be a death sentence. It no longer is. I’ve seen incredible advances in cancer treatment since I hosted my first telethon in 2003. I’m hoping my story might serve as a reminder to pick up the phone and make a pledge to this year’s telethon. More than ever, I’m taking this mission personally.
I hope you join me in it.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@RedSoxFund