EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 3, 2006

Lester not alone in his fight


As seemingly unimaginable as Lester's diagnosis appeared to his family, the subsequent reaction has been nearly as astonishing.

Initially, there was the care that was taken by the team, allowing the young pitcher to take up a private room at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute with a guard outside of his door. Also from the start have been the constant support and understanding from one of the Red Sox's team physicians, Dr. Larry Ronan, who has done everything from making arrangements for the Lesters at his favorite Italian restaurant near the hospital, Antonio's, to keeping in constant communication with their son throughout his treatments.

Then, not long after the diagnosis became public, came the ultimate message that the level of support just might be on a bit of a grander scale than initially anticipated.

"The (New York) Yankees sent flowers that first week. They were the only organization (other than the Red Sox) to do so," John Lester said. "That was great. I don't know who it was in the organization, but somebody sent him a large (bouquet), saying that they were rooting for him. That's kind of cool. People tell me it could even have been (New York owner George) Steinbrenner."

The first month was just a constant wave of greetings, hundreds and hundreds of them. The influx of letters might have slowed down a bit, but they continue to come, as is evidenced by the 20 or so arriving in the Lester mailbox Thursday via the Red Sox.

For Lester, the thought of those sending everything from cards to religious medals to homemade pillows to T-shirts is mind-boggling. But, according to his dad, the messages have also offered a reminder of a past he wants to replace with a much brighter future.

"He doesn't read a lot of them because it is a reminder, and when you're going through it, you don't need a reminder," said John Lester, whose wife, Kathie, sorts through virtually all of the mail. "Believe me, he really, really appreciates the support. But sometimes it's hard, because you don't want people to feel sorry for you. You like the support, but you don't want to be reminded of it three or four hundred times. He has picked out a few and sent pictures and baseballs back."

And some of those letters Lester has latched onto offer glimpses of a life the pitcher most likely never would have seen if not for his current plight.

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