One moment that defined Liam Hendriks' improbable return from his cancer diagnosis to his highly-anticipated MLB return is his first meeting with Andrew Vaughn after announcing his diagnosis.
According to an ESPN story done by Jeff Passan, Vaughn, whose sister-in-law was diagnosed with the same non-Hodgkins lymphoma as Hendriks, visited Hendriks and his wife, Kristi, at his house in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Hendriks pulled out his phone and pointed to his phone calendar adjusted to May.
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"That's what I'm shooting for," Hendriks said to Vaughn.
Through unrelenting positivity, his wife's support, fan letters, and text messages from other players around the league, Hendriks was able to defeat Stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma and enter remission in close to five months' time.
Not only that, Hendriks remained in decent-enough baseball shape through four rounds of chemotherapy over the course of those five months to attack a rehab stint in Triple-A Charlotte during the first week of May and two live bullpen sessions with the White Sox afterward.
We don't know whether or not his velocity and movement are as elite as they were over 75 saves and a 2.68 ERA from his past two seasons. His fastball velocity topped 94 mph during his Triple-A stint, which is 3.7 mph lower than his average heater last season. His ERA in Triple-A also ballooned to 10.80.
Either way, his return to the mound, presumably, during Monday's home contest against the Los Angeles Angels will be historic and unforgettable.
Yes, athletes have been diagnosed with cancer and returned to normal before.
Lance Armstrong, likely the most notable story of them all, was diagnosed with testicular cancer that traveled to his brain, lungs and abdomen in 1996. He recovered and returned to win the Tour de France seven times from 1999 to 2005.
Mario Lemieux, one of hockey's greatest players, was diagnosed with the same cancer as Hendriks in 1993. After two months of treatment, he returned to the ice and played eight seasons after his battle.
Jon Lester was diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell lymphoma in 2006. Five months of chemotherapy later, he was cancer free and returned to the mound that spring. He threw a no-hitter the next season and later helped the Cubs to a World Series in 2016.
It's been done before. But it's a rare feat to accomplish returning to the sport, nonetheless surviving the disease in the first place.
In Hendriks' case, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Dec. 7. The lymphoma that started in his neck traveled to his hips and his bones, creating a more serious case of cancer than preliminary stages.
Doctors recommend six trials of cancer treatment to combat the cells but Hendriks desired to return to baseball by May, meaning leaving room for four treatments. Not settled upon, but doctors were open to his plan as long as the treatments were successful.
And they were, as the decreasing of cancerous cells and bone marrow tests proved healthy. Since announcing his remission Apr. 24, Hendriks has pitched a rehab stint with Triple-A and two live bullpen sessions leading up to his major league return.
On Sunday, the White Sox alluded to his activation on Monday by posting a video commending his battle with cancer and a series of green hearts. Presumably, on Memorial Day, fans in attendance will watch Hendriks take the field after departing the gates from left field.
Despite how his first performance since October 2022 unfolds, his presence on the mound is an insurmountable achievement on its own. From having Stage 4 cancer just before the beginning of 2023, to returning to his native post on the mound around 6 months later is remarkable.
Not only are Hendriks' elite ninth-inning heroics vital to a White Sox team struggling to climb the ranks of the AL Central, his locker room banter and uplifting spirit are arguably just as important to the South Side.
This season hasn't gone exactly to plan for the White Sox. They sit 11 games under .500 with the second-worst record in the AL Central, the league's worst division of baseball.
Yet, a glimmer of hope and joyfulness will be released soon enough from the left field bullpen at Guaranteed Rate Field. Hendriks' return to the mound will be the highlight of the season for the White Sox.
And Hendriks was the only person on the planet who knew he could make it happen in such a short time, dating back to him showing Vaughn his estimated return just after his diagnosis.