NEW YORK -- Not long after arriving in New York in 2021, Carlos Carrasco established his “Cookie’s Kids” program to host pediatric cancer patients once per month at Citi Field. As an extension of the community work he had previously done in Cleveland, the mission was deeply personal to Carrasco, who successfully beat chronic myelogenous leukemia while with the Guardians in 2019.
But Wednesday was different. When Carrasco met with children from Cohen Children’s Medical Center, he had company.
“It was great today, being able to talk to him about his stuff, what he went through and kind of relate the stories,” Hendriks said of Carrasco. “And then to hear some of the kids talk about their treatment plans and everything, it’s always really cool. It takes the edge off. … You’re trying to remove the stigma of going through treatment and not being able to talk about it.”
Although Carrasco and Hendriks didn’t know each other well before this week, each had watched the other’s cancer battle from afar. When Hendriks revealed his lymphoma diagnosis earlier this year, Carrasco made sure to follow updates on Instagram.
Upon recovering, Hendriks began hosting cancer patients not only at home in Chicago, but also in every road city he visited. Although the White Sox closer is currently on the injured list with right elbow inflammation, he flew with the team to New York, which gave him an opportunity to link up with Carrasco.
“It’s part of a club that no one really wants to be a part of, but also everyone wants to be a part of at the same time,” Hendriks said. “Once I got diagnosed, one of my first things was honestly to Google celebrities who had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or athletes or anything like that. Seeing the amount of people that have gotten over it that you may not have heard about … it’s very interesting to read those guys’ stories of how they went about it.”
Hendriks ticked off the names of Jameson Taillon, Chad Bettis, David Hess and Trey Mancini as Major League players who reached out to him when he was diagnosed. Carrasco recalled a particularly touching message from Anthony Rizzo, another fellow cancer survivor. The community also includes Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who joined Hendriks for an on-camera conversation in Los Angeles earlier this season.
Wednesday, however, marked the first time that either Carrasco or Hendriks had teamed up with a fellow player to spread their message. The pitchers took patients from Cohen Children’s Medical Center to various parts of the stadium, at one point sitting them down in the dugout to tell their stories and answer questions.
“It was really nice,” Carrasco said. “He came over and he wanted to do this. There’s a lot of people who can see that [and realize] if we can make it, they can make it, too.”
Added Hendriks: “The one thing I always try and stress is, you’re not alone. Reach out, talk to people. Don’t be worried about talking to a therapist. Don’t be worried about talking to people about it. You remove the stigma of the word ‘cancer.’ The more you talk about it, the lighter you start feeling. It takes that weight off of you.”