Liam Hendriks cried for the first time in his five-month battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
That’s the recollection coming from Kristi Hendriks, who met with the media Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field a few hours prior to her husband’s mound return.
It happened Sunday night when Liam and Kristi watched his welcome back video expertly put together by Sox TV and disseminated through their Twitter account. It featured teammates Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Andrew Vaughn, pitching coach Ethan Katz and bullpen coach Curt Hasler welcoming back Hendriks.
“When he saw that his teammates were really rooting for him and they were so excited he was back, he got very emotional,” Kristi said.
Hendriks’ inspirational journey culminated in the right-hander allowing two runs in the eighth inning Monday to the Angels, while throwing 27 pitches and topping out at 96.6 mph per Statcast. “Culminated” really is the wrong word because baseball life is just returning for Hendriks as a featured part in the White Sox bullpen.
But there needed to be a finishing point to Liam’s cancer battle, and that came Monday amidst three standing ovations, repeated chants of his name by the crowd and even well-wishes from people he ran into while walking in downtown Chicago Monday afternoon. Kristi described her husband as excited and nervous for Monday, but she added that you are only really nervous when you care about something.
“Just realizing the impact my wife and I have had around this city with what we’ve been able to do, it’s an extremely emotional time,” Hendriks said. “The outpouring of love not only online and in social media but in person has been huge. I want to thank the city of Chicago for embracing us in this way and hopefully we have and can still continue to move forward and represent this city well.”
“Baseball really was Liam’s saving grace,” Kristi said. “He would essentially have chemo on Monday and immunotherapy and then on Tuesday, he would have chemo only. On Wednesday and Thursday, he would sleep the majority of the day and then on Friday, he would get up and go to the field. It was his motivating factor to get up again, to feel really good, to feel like he's doing something normal.”
These special moments from this comeback belong to both Liam and Kristi. They have been helping people in the Chicagoland area through their charitable work since arriving with the White Sox, and Liam and Kristi could not have made it through the cancer journey without the White Sox help for both of them.
Monday’s comeback was a long way, both literally and figuratively, from hearing the words “Stage 4” in regard to Hendriks’ original cancer diagnosis.
“When they said 'Stage 4' and we looked at the pet scan and it was throughout his body, I was just in shell shock,” Kristi said. “When you hear 'Stage 4', it’s one of the scariest things you’ll ever go through.
“I’m a control freak. I’m sitting there and I just want to save him and help him, but I understand that’s not my place … Personally, I never thought my 33-year-old husband would come home from the field one day and tell me there’s a possibility he has lymphoma.
“But marriage is for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and I feel like he would 100 percent do the same thing for me,” Kristi said. “Just grateful I could be that person for him.”