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Liam Hendriks is driven to return to the Chicago White Sox after having non-Hodgkin lymphoma: ‘My job is to get this done’

Liam Hendriks always believed he would get back to playing baseball.

The Chicago White Sox closer publicly disclosed in January that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and said Wednesday it was Stage 4. He announced on April 20 that he was cancerfree. And now he’s remarkably one step closer to joining the Sox, beginning a minor-league rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Charlotte at Gwinnett.

“As soon as I found out the regular treatment timelines, I was like, ‘OK, how can I beat it,’” said Hendriks, who met with reporters wearing a T-shirt with the words “struckout cancer” Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Hendriks said lumps in his neck discovered in June were triggers. Since he first heard the diagnosis, Hendriks never took the view of “Why me?”

“I looked at it as a ‘Why not me?’ ” he said. “I tend to have a little rosier perspective on life. So that was process behind it. ‘Look, I’ve got this. This is my next challenge.’ I know that going into it, I could never be introverted and hold it all in, just the woe is me, that attitude. I’ve seen family members go through it. You hear the stories of people going through it.

“You see how much it ravages not only the person but also the spouse. Not only was I wondering about myself and making sure I had the right mentality, I wanted to make sure everybody around me knew I was attacking this thing head on and to not worry about me and my mental state because I’m attacking this no matter what.”

Hendriks said one thing that helped him get back this quickly “was the amount of people that didn’t have my phone number reaching out as either survivors or players or anything like that.”

One in particular, from Cubs pitcher Jameson Taillon, stood out.

“His was: ‘It’s your journey. Nobody can tell you what to feel or what to do baseball-wise Do whatever you feel is right,’ ” Hendriks said. “That was on Jan. 30 and I think I actually threw a bullpen the next day, right around there. So I was like, ‘Screw it, I want to push this.’ ”

Before that, Hendriks was just planning on playing catch to make sure he was staying somewhat fit.

“That was one of the messages that really hit me, hit me in the eyes,” Hendriks said. “It was right around the next day or a couple of days later I was on the mound throwing a bullpen. That’s the only reason, you’re talking about a rehab assignment this quickly, because I’ve been throwing bullpens, I got into two games in Arizona.

“It’s messages like that that kind of really forced me to dig deep and go, like, ‘Look I’ve done this my entire career. This is what we’re going to do, were going to try to push the limits and see what we can do and at the end of the day if I can push and I can feel all right, that’s what we’re going to do.’ ”

Teammate Lucas Giolito said Hendriks’ resilience is “top-notch.”

“The positivity he carried through the entire process was remarkable,” Giolito said. “No matter what we do as a team this is the best news of the year. He beat cancer, he’s back and he’s going to compete at a high level. It’s amazing to see.”

While this hasn’t changed Hendriks’ outlook on life, he said, “It’s definitely made me miss being in this clubhouse. It’s made me miss being a part of the team.”

Hendriks has spent the last couple of days at Guaranteed Rate Field and played catch in left field before Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.

“It was definitely emotional unpacking my locker (Tuesday),” Hendriks said. “Coming back in here and seeing some new faces, seeing some guys that you’ve been around for the last couple (of) years, it’s been nice to get back.”

As far as the next steps, Hendriks said: “Right now I’m in somewhat of a February (mode).”

“Obviously now I’m just trying to ramp up and then get this going,” Hendriks said. “We have a timeline in place. It’s just a matter of how it goes and how I feel getting into games and now having to adjust to a pitch clock that I haven’t used yet. But those little things, we have a plan in place but nothing set in stone because it all depends on how I recover and how I go.”

Whenever that return is, Hendriks said he does not plan on regressing.

“That’s been my mindset,” he said. “There’s no taking it easy. If I go out there and I give up a hit, I’m still going to be pissed. If I go out there and walk somebody, I’m still going to be pissed. If I go out there, it’s going to be the same mentality that I have and that’s the only way I’ve been able to do what I’ve done the last couple of years is by having that mindset that there are extremely high expectations.

“It’s not going to change because I’ve been through this so I’m allowed to give up a hit. There’s going to be none of that. It’s going to be that I’m going out there to do a job. My job is to get this done, and if I don’t do it, I’m going to be mad. As soon as I’m back, I’m meant to be in midseason form and that’s what I’m going to be doing.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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