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Behind The Plate: Cancer Survivor Lester Encouraging Kids To "Never Quit"

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cubs pitcher Jon Lester was just 22 years old when he was called up to the big leagues.

"At my age, where I was at, playing for the Red Sox, being called up, I was hyped up a little bit. You feel like you're walking on water. You feel like nothing can get you," Lester said.

During his rookie year in 2006, he was also diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. He says it was reality check.

"I think that brought me down. I think it really help me put everything into perspective. Not taking what I do for a living for granted," said Lester.


It was a rough recovery, he said, and all he wanted to do was pitch again.

"It was a tough time. It was tough on my family too," Lester said.

Less than a year later, he pitched and won game four of the World Series as the Red Sox swept the Rockies. It's a story movies are made of, recovery and redemption. He says it's just about never giving up.

"You fight, you grind and you figure out ways to pick yourself up," he said.

Behind The Plate With Jon Lester 3
Lester was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer during his rookie year in 2006. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Soon after, he and his wife formed NVRQT. Short for never quit, it's a program to support kids in their battle against cancer.

"We wanted to get involved with kids somehow, we obviously wanted to be involved with some sort of, whether it be cancer research or a cancer foundation," Lester said.

Now in its fourth year, Lester is holding his first event here in Chicago this week.

"We do 3 up 3 down, based on Hollywood Squares. We get a lot of personalities, a couple of teammates, ex teammates, Ryan Dempster is going to be there. They just get up there and have fun. We have different questions, different topics. It's real relaxed, we just want people to come and enjoy themselves and raise money for a good cause," he said.

It's been almost ten years, since his life changing diagnosis and he says most days he doesn't even think about it but when he looks back, he says in some ways, cancer was a good thing.

"It was a blessing, but a challenge at the same time. I'm glad I went through it when I did. It changed a lot of perspective on things," Lester said.

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Now in its fourth year, Lester is holding his first NVRQT event here in Chicago this week. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Lester is more than a great baseball player, he's a cancer survivor but his legacy he says is more about being a good father and encouraging young people to "never quit."

"We've gotten to meet a lot of great kids and hopefully somewhere a long the line, we've touched them and we've made an impact," he said.

NVRQT at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark Street, is Thursday, August 13th from 7-10p. The night will include a 3 Up, 3 Down event. Fans can watch the event and partake in live and silent auctions.

Buy tickets by clicking here. All proceeds go to the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Donations can be made on the foundation's Facebook page or by logging onto

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