CHICAGO — Leading up to Friday’s White Sox game against the Twins, Liam Hendriks and his wife Kristi will hold a fan tailgate in Lot B outside Guaranteed Rate Field for Lymphoma Awareness Day.
A $20 donation benefiting Be The Match will get you food, drinks and entertainment from DJ Pauly D beginning at 4 p.m. Most importantly, fans can sign up for a cheek swap to join the Be The Match bone marrow registry.
“I’m not at that stage yet, but it could be potentially something in my future, so I want to make sure we take care of things now and hopefully get people in the system,” Hendriks said. “Look it’s only a preliminary swap to get on the shortlist and advance on, whether it be bone marrow or stem cells or any sort of donorship to someone battling cancer that just needs that little boost.”
The White Sox All-Star was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in January and announced he was cancer-free in April. Since then, the Hendriks’ have led the way in raising money for cancer research and meeting with fellow cancer patients and survivors.
“We are trying to remove the stigma from the word cancer and the word chemotherapy,” Hendriks said. “You hear those, and you automatically retract a little bit, especially for teenagers. I can only imagine where I was as a teenager if someone I knew had cancer, like ‘Oh God, it’s a death sentence.’ It’s not the case these days. In the last 30 years, the survival rate has increased 30%. There have been huge strides in treatments for cancer. Anything we can do, whether it be through Be The Match, or just by talking about it with other survivors, or people going through treatment, that’s all we are trying to do now.”
Hendriks has said his cancer diagnosis has changed him for the better.
“I never would say I took things for granted but it puts a lot more effort into it and there’s not really a day where I’m too tired, it’s ‘No, no we are doing this,” he said. “You learn to live life to the fullest all the cliché quotes stuff like that. You want to be able to do something with your time, that’s why I’ve been going on the road trips even after being hurt. It’s been good for me to express the treatments I went through and be able to talk to other people that may not have other people around them that have gone through something similar. Now we can talk about shared experiences and treatment plans. What you realize is it’s affected a lot more people than you’ve ever thought of.”
Hendriks’ remarkable return to the mound was short-lived. He made just five pitching appearances in May and June before elbow pain landed him on the injured list—and ultimately under the knife for Tommy John surgery.
“At the end of the day it is what it is, I know myself and there was nothing I could do to change it,” he said. “It wasn’t me coming back too early because I threw more bullpens than anybody else in the league. It may have been me overdoing it, but that’s my personality. If I had [surgery] straight away when I was on the IL I could have probably been alright with it, but knowing I took the time, I got an injection, I took several live BPs and bullpens and it wasn’t responding. I flipped over every stone to avoid this, and we couldn’t avoid it, but there’s nothing we can do except just continually do the rehab and it’ll be nice to not have pain in this [elbow] for a while, hasn’t been the case for a while.”
Hendriks hopes to remain on the South Side, though it’s out of his control as the White Sox hold a $15 million team option. But he’s hopeful the team turns thing around with new general manager Chris Getz going forward.
“Now having a guy like Getz who has been a player, been in the trenches before, been in the dugouts of several teams, that’s a big thing you can get a little bit more of a perspective,” he said. “There are a lot of things that go into it but its going to be stressful period for him, if anyone is adept to doing it, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and hopefully we can, even if it’s not me included here, hopefully the South Side can get back to its winning ways.”