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Doctors pronounce Red Sox hurler Lester cancer-free

12/5/2006 - MLB Jon Lester Boston Red Sox + more

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jon Lester's doctors have told him
he's cancer-free from lymphoma, and the Boston Red Sox pitcher is
planning to report to training camp on time.

"It was my expectation from the beginning to be at spring
training at some point," Lester said Tuesday. "Now that
everything is looking good and ready to go, I'm ready to be there
on the reporting day that pitchers and catchers need to be there."

Lester won his first five starts as a rookie this year and was
7-2 with a 4.76 ERA when he was diagnosed with anaplastic large
cell lymphoma at the end of August, ending his season.

Lester underwent four courses of chemotherapy before a scan came
up clean.

"I'm cancer-free right now. That's it. I have one more
treatment Dec. 21 and then I'll be done," Lester told reporters on
a conference call. "It really hasn't sunk in yet. When Dec. 21
comes around, it will start sinking in then. It really won't hit
home until spring training."

Red Sox pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring
training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 16. This time, Lester will have a
new perspective on his profession.

"Before, I took everything very seriously when it came to
baseball. It's what I do, and it's my job," he said. "Now that
I've realized it can be taken away, I'm definitely going to enjoy
things a little more, not take the little things so seriously, just
go out and enjoy them."

The 22-year-old lefty threw for the first time on Monday, and
has been lifting weights to try to keep in shape; he has lost about
10 pounds.

"Nothing strenuous, nothing too difficult," he said.

Lester has been one of Boston's top prospects since he was
drafted in 2002, one frequently requested by other teams in trade
talks. But doctors discovered enlarged lymph nodes when Lester was
tested to determine the cause of back pain that sent him to the
disabled list on Aug. 28.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said at baseball's winter
meetings that he has been in touch with Lester and called the
prognosis "probably the most important thing that could happen
down here."

"So, from where I sit, the meetings are already a success,"
Francona said.

General manager Theo Epstein said he was expecting to call
Lester later Tuesday.

"Obviously, we're over the moon about this and couldn't be
happier for Jon and his family," Epstein said.

Lester thanked the fans who reached out to him during his
treatment, saying he heard from others with cancer -- kids and the
elderly alike.

"It got to the point that it was so nice I couldn't read the
stuff any more because I didn't want people feeling sorry for me.
But it didn't go unnoticed," he said. "Even though it's been a
bad experience, it's been a good experience because you see a lot
of good things come out of people."