Jameson Taillon shares the story of the text he sent to Liam Hendriks after his cancer diagnosis

White Sox closer Liam Hendriks made his emotional return to the Guaranteed Rate Field mound Monday. When he explained his quick return, he highlighted a message from Taillon.

SHARE Jameson Taillon shares the story of the text he sent to Liam Hendriks after his cancer diagnosis
Liam Hendriks of the White Sox reacts against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

Liam Hendriks of the White Sox reacts against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When Jameson Taillon was working his way back from testicular cancer surgery in 2017, he reached out to Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis for advice. Some six years later, Taillon would pass on Bettis’ message to White Sox closer Liam Hendriks.

Hendriks made his season debut in an emotional eighth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on Monday in the Sox’ 6-4 loss to the Angels. It had been only 45 days since his last chemotherapy treatment for stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

To explain his quick return, earlier this month Hendriks highlighted a text that Taillon sent him Jan. 30, a few weeks after Hendriks made his diagnosis public.

“It’s your journey,” Hendriks read from the text messages on his phone. “Nobody can tell you what to feel or what to do baseball-wise. Do whatever you feel is right.”

That, in a nutshell, was what Bettis told Taillon back in 2017. Bettis also was undergoing testicular cancer treatment. He ended up needing chemotherapy in addition to surgery, which extended his timeline past Taillon’s.

Taillon reached out to ask: “Am I crazy for trying to come back too quickly?”

Bettis’ answer, Taillon recalls, was an unequivocal no.

“That’s something that I really appreciated at the time,” Taillon said in a conversation with the Sun-Times this month. “No one can judge you, and no one’s going through what you’re going through. If it feels right, it feels right. Get after it. And on the flip side, if you need time, then take your time. It goes both ways. So it’s not like you need to adhere to anyone else’s timeline but your own.”

Taillon listened to his body and stopped questioning his desire to be back on the mound and with his teammates. He was playing in the big leagues again less than six weeks after his diagnosis.

Hendriks said he threw a bullpen session in the days after that text from Taillon.

“Before that, I was just planning to play catch, making sure I was staying somewhat fit and then moving forward,” Hendriks said. “That was one of the messages that really hit me, hit me in the eyes.”

It was one of many he received from fellow players and cancer survivors.

“You never want to be a part of that community, the cancer community,” Taillon said, “but once you get diagnosed, and once you go through it, it opens your eyes to how powerful that community is. And people feel comfortable sharing their stories with you and how they’ve been affected by it. You can impact people, and it’s just really cool.”

Taillon pointed to the “Struckout cancer” shirt Hendriks wore in his May 3 news conference before going on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte.

“That can be super-powerful,” Taillon said. “So happy to see him using his platform and happy to see him back out there.”

Injury updates

Outfielder Cody Bellinger (bruised left knee) is progressing in his recovery and went through batting-cage work and throwing Tuesday, the Cubs said. Reliever Brad Boxberger (strained right forearm) played catch Sunday and Monday, so Tuesday was a light day on his rehab schedule. He’s set to throw again Wednesday.

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