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How the 2016 Cubs helped one fan beat cancer – and launch a line of children’s books

2 years agoKarli Bell and Matt Danielewicz

October baseball has its own type of magic. 

Something about a crisp, autumn day on the diamond creates some everlasting memories. It can also be a time of inspiration, as it was for Cubs fan and artist Roy Adorjan in 2016.

“We were at a birthday party for someone in the family,” Adorjan said. “I said, ‘I’m going to make a quick little thing on a birthday card about the Cubs.’” 

Once upon a time…

One hundred and eight years ago,

A team of Cubbie bears

Turned a town all a glow.

“As I wrote it, I said to myself, ‘Oh, I can write another one of these,’”Adorjan said. “And then the third one and then the fourth one, I said, ‘Wow, this is this actually could be a book.’ I was thinking, ‘If I’m going to do it, the time is now because they’re on the verge here. They’re going to win this thing. I got to do it.’”

Over a span of just two weeks, Adorjan wrote, edited, illustrated and self-published a Cubs-themed children’s book titled “The Legends of 16,” detailing the entire journey of the 2016 team, from the hire of Joe Maddon all the way to the final out of Game 7.

The Legends of 16

This book was the launching pad for a plethora of other children’s books. Adorjan has written and illustrated over 20 different children’s books, ranging from love stories to recapping the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the ‘90s.

“Somebody asked me not too long ago where I get my inspirations for a lot of my stories,” Adorjan said. “It usually is because of somebody that I love or loves me, and that’s what this was. Yes, it was about the Chicago Cubs, all the fans and all the players, but really, it’s that connection that I’ve shared as a child with my brothers, especially going through what I was going through.” 

In 2015, Adorjan was diagnosed with plasmacytoma near his heart and on his ribs, a type of cancer that begins in plasma cells and can turn into multiple myeloma. 

He said, “I was doing a live event. I was airbrushing something and I moved [my air compressor]. I felt this crack in my rib and I’m like, ‘Oh, that didn’t sound right.’ Sure enough, we went to the doctor about a week and a half later, which I was scheduled to, and we were shocked because it had spread everywhere and we didn’t even know it.

“This particular disease eats at my bones. So that’s where that crack was. We caught it in time to start treatment, which meant a full stem cell transplant. I spent about a month in the hospital.”

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“When I met Roy, I saw how much he loves the Cubs. It just became so personal,” Bliss Dupes, Adorjan’s girlfriend, said. “Everything that he was going through, it’s providing inspiration for him and a distraction from what was going on with his health.”

For Adorjan, the Cubs represented an escape.

“It was something that just took your mind off it. It made me focus. OK, we got a Cubs game today. What time is it? 1:20. Perfect game time. Pat Hughes on the radio. Here we go,” Adorjan said.

Cancer didn’t stop Adorjan from embracing his creative side. After his treatment, he created a full banner of the entire 2016 team, airbrushed by hand.

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“When I was diagnosed with cancer, having this book and this banner, I was initially able to raise some money for my stuff,” he said. “After that, the response was so positive that everybody wanted to contribute and purchase the book or purchase a print of this banner that I painted that we were able to take even farther.

“Before I went into my stem cell transplant, we did about $4,000 at a benefit and probably about $400 to $500 of that we were able to donate then to the Lurie Children’s Hospital up at Northwestern. We plan to do more of those, but that always felt great. First it was given to me and then I can give it back.

“I don’t care if I sell one book or 10,000 books. It’s just nice to know that when they are going somewhere to somebody, that it matters and you make a difference. That’s the best part.”

Roy is currently in remission. To see his whole story, check out the video above.

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