EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 3, 2006

Lester not alone in his fight

Rob Bradford

Bradford Files

For three months, Jon Lester has been bombarded with the best wishes of the world. Wednesday was his time to give back.

One day before undergoing his fifth round of chemotherapy treatment for the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma the Red Sox pitcher was diagnosed with on Aug. 31, Lester met with an old friend, Johnny DuRocher.

DuRocher, a Graham, Wash., native who had known Lester since the two started playing competitive baseball and basketball, had excelled in his own right athletically, serving as the backup quarterback for the University of Washington football team. But last week, the junior found out he had more in common with his old friend than just athletic achievement.

While being tested for a concussion suffered during the Huskies' Nov. 11 loss to Stanford, DuRocher was diagnosed as having a benign brain tumor in the back of his head. The accidental discovery was eerily similar to Lester's, whose diagnosis was fast-forwarded thanks to a back pain originally perceived to be caused by an Aug. 18 automobile accident on Storrow Drive.

Then, just 24 hours before Lester's next wave of treatments and DuRocher's brain surgery, the pair of 22-year-olds was found meeting in Seattle for lunch. Suddenly, after crates of supportive letters, T-shirts, and flower arrangements, it was the pitcher who was serving as the support system for one of the first friends he originally leaned on in late August.

"They went out to lunch and talked about what Johnny was going through since they were both kind of going through the same experience," said Lester's father, John. "Even though Johnny knows it is benign, to have a golf ball-sized tumor in the back of your brain is a scary thing."

Lester, the oh-so-promising left-hander who had consistently displayed the kind of courage on a big league mound usually not found in rookies, knew just how therapeutic an outpouring of love and understanding could be. It's a lesson the hurler started learning the minute word got out regarding his battle with the usually treatable form of cancer.

"It's been a constant outpouring," said John Lester. "Starting with the Red Sox organization stepping up to the plate from the time the whole thing started in August. Right from when we found out something was wrong, (Sox manager) Terry Francona met with me and lent his support. (Boston general manager) Theo (Epstein), (Red Sox owner) John Henry, everybody. ... John Henry sent his airplane out and flew us back (from Washington to Boston). Jonathan talks to Tito (Francona) just about every day. It's all pretty amazing."

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