This story begins with a swollen lymph node in Lesley Breslow's neck when she was only 14 and for her brother Craig the story does not end until every kid goes home from the hospital free of cancer free of fear. The Red Sox relief pitcher enjoying the great autumn of his baseball life does not particularly enjoy his nickname "The Smartest Man in Baseball." A Yale degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry aside the title carries a distinct scent of the pompous and vainglorious. He is neither. "I will say I'm not so stupid as to sit here and tell you I'm the smartest man in Major League Baseball" Breslow said Tuesday. Still Breslow who grew up in Trumbull Conn. is smart enough to have counted his blessings in life and decide that they added up to a calling beyond getting a couple of Cardinals out in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Leave it to him to explain it all in one paragraph. "When I founded the Strike 3 Foundation in 2008" Breslow wrote in his opening message on the foundation's website "I did so with a compelling inspiration to reciprocate my good fortune. Privileged by a healthy and prosperous upbringing yet forever touched by the childhood cancer of my sister I now seek to raise awareness and support for this devastating disease." The pediatrician kept a close eye on the lump in Lesley's neck for a couple of months in 1992. Antibiotics did not help. The protrusion did not get any smaller. A biopsy was taken in December. It was malignant. The holidays in 1992 were not a good time for the Breslow family. "When you are that age there are certain buzzwords like cancer that are so incredibly influential on the way you think about things" Breslow said. "Every kid 10 11 12 thinks they are invincible have no vulnerability. Suddenly you hear someone is sick and you hear cancer and the first question is 'Are they going to die?'" When a shaken Abe Breslow picked up Craig at a friend's house he told his son that Lesley had thyroid cancer. With tears in his eyes Craig 12 asked that first question. Is Lesley going to die? He remembered how later his sister would be in her room come downstairs and ask "Why are you guys crying?" "Obviously at the time I didn't know how much it affected Craig" Lesley said. "Being a 14-year-old teenager I was completely involved in myself wanting to get started with (Trumbull) high school try out for sports and all that stuff. I did not stop to think how my parents were handling this or how my brother was handling this. It seemed to go on for a lifetime ." Lesley stopped for a second as if to count her great blessing. "My whole process" she said "was very short compared to most people with cancer." Three weeks after the biopsy confirmed the worst she had a total thyroidectomy. A second surgery came next. Radiation was to follow. Yet the day before she was to have a scan done to determine what dosage she would receive "I was told the surgeon had gotten everything they needed." She never had radiation. She never had chemo. Lesley returned to school within a couple of months and got on with the rest of her life. Twenty years later married Lesley Palange and her husband Paul live in Stamford with two young sons Jagger and Ryder. She remains cancer-free. "It's rare for that to happen" said Lesley a guidance counselor at Greenwich Central Middle School. "I do take (the drug) Synthroid every single day. I'm still monitored by doctors at Sloan-Kettering. I've been through two healthy easy pregnancies." "I also know through all the work Craig has done he wants all children to experience the success that I have beating this disease." Lesley's older boy Jagger 4 has been in the Red Sox clubhouse has sat atop the Green Monster. Breslow smiled at that thought Tuesday at Fenway. They are the generation that lives because Lesley lives and that is the joy that powers his cause. He is to be married to Kelly Shaffer on Nov. 9 and looks forward to the day of bringing his own kids into the clubhouse. "It's funny my sister told me her kids were watching a game on television and they didn't recognize me because of the beard" said Breslow whose whiskers are far more modest than Jonny Gomes' or Mike Napoli's. "I felt like I have finally made it." Accepted to medical school at NYU Breslow would have been well on his way to a career as a doctor had the Astros not drafted him in the 26th round in 2002. He gave the game a crack. Braving the minors the constant movement sold by an independent league to San Diego for $1 at one point nobody said it would be easy. Breslow 33 has pitched for the Padres Indians Twins A's Diamondbacks. This is his second stint with the Red Sox. The team actually had called him from Pawtucket on Sept. 1 2007 to cover itself if some young guy couldn't handle his second major league start. Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter. "The next day I became one of the few September call-downs in the history of baseball" Breslow said. "They were kind enough to give me a World Series ring although I don't wear it frequently because I don't feel like I really made a contribution to that team." This time? "I feel like I could wear it proudly" said Breslow who hasn't allowed a run and only three hits over seven innings in seven lights-out postseason appearances.
Red Sox's Breslow on a mission that's bigger than baseball
Boston Herald | Oct 23