John Farrell joined Dale & Holley at Mohegan Sun on Wednesday. (WEEI Twitter)
Red Sox manager John Farrell joined the Dale & Holley show on Wednesday live from Mohegan Sun to discuss his treatment for stage 1 lymphoma, which is now in remission, and also to discuss the team’s plans for the offseason. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
On Aug. 14 Farrell was diagnosed with stage 1 Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt lymphoma and after a few months of treatment on Oct. 21 tests showed his cancer was in remission.
“The last couple of months have been very different,” Farrell said. “I’ve been very fortunate in a lot of ways. From the early diagnosis, the staging that was done, Dr. Jeremy Abramson at MGH and his incredible talents to have me in remission. I can tell you that 24 hours from the time you get a scan until the news you receive is filled with some anxiety, but not many better words can be said when he said everything was clean.”
On a road trip in early August, Farrell was told he needed hernia surgery and it was during that surgery the cancer was found and Farrell was told the news.
“I said, ‘Doc, I think you just hit me in the forehead with a sledgehammer.’ I was probably in denial the first week,” Farrell said. “There’s no doubt about it because that was on Monday. Tuesday I flew back to Miami to rejoin the team and was there for the two-game series against the Marlins and came back to Boston for a full day of examination on that Thursday, the off-day. That is when the slides came back 100 percent sure that you have Burkitt lymphoma. Then quickly you’re in the midst of all this information being thrust upon you. I had to ask the doc just to stop for a moment so I could take a breath. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, yet alone being diagnosed, what was coming down. Four days after that I am in 12 hours of chemo. It was happening at lightning speed so denial probably got me through the first week.”
Farrell went through three cycles of chemotherapy, with each cycle being different mentally.
“You go through some stages,” he said. “I think with each cycle, there were three cycles that I went through. With each cycle here were different phases mentally as you went through it. The first time through you don’t know what to expect. The second time through you’re in the heart of it and it’s not a whole lot of fun knowing there is another cycle out there waiting to be administered at some point. That’s the low point. Then you finally get into that third cycle, and fortunately in my case there were only three cycles needed. Dealing with an aggressive form of lymphoma, it was an aggressive regimen of chemo, basically in a nutshell, six months of chemo in roughly seven and a half weeks. There was a lot given in a short given in a short period of time, but thankfully it worked out well.”
The manager said Indians manager Terry Francona, who accompanied him to his first day of chemo, texted him every day. Francona was just one of many who showed tremendous support. “I’m very thankful for all of that,” Farrell said.
Prior to the diagnosis, the Red Sox were struggling and right after Farrell announced he had cancer, the Red Sox hired a new president of baseball operations in Dave Dombrowski. Bench coach Torey Lovullo look over as interim manager, but Farrell said he never needed to make a case to keep his job once he was back to good health.
“That was never presented in that way,” he said. “I can tell you, John [Henry], Tom [Werner], Larry [Lucchino], Michael Gordon, others and the support that they showed. The number of times John and Tom would come down to my office and sit down talk. There has always been support there. Even through the treatment, it wasn’t that way. It wasn’t that way in terms of making a case to stay on the job. It was you’re coming back provided everything checks out and it has.”
With each passing week Farrell is getting his strength back and has now begun jogging. He has no restrictions when it comes to his duties during the offseason and was present in Arizona when the Red Sox organization met last week to go over its offseason plans.
Even though he was undergoing chemo treatments, Farrell still kept up with the team’s decisions and he began to build a relationship with Dombrowski. With getting to know each other out of the way months ago has made the offseason much easier for everyone.
“With Dave, I was in step with every decision that was made along the way. There was constant communication with him. I knew of him, we didn’t have any relationship other than a surface hello at the Winter Meetings or when Detroit was coming through Cleveland when I was working there. We’ve begun to forge that relationship now. It’s disappointing that Ben [Cherington] is not here, as he was the one who brought me back to Boston, but at the same time with Mike Hazen being promoted into the GM role, Frank Wren lending his expertise to that trio, we’re in good hands with the number of decisions that are coming our way.”