The road to playing Major League Soccer (MLS) can be a long and difficult journey, but Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Matt Lampson had a few more bumps in the road than most. Lampson, now 10 years cancer free, hopes to inspire children fighting cancer today. Minnesota United FC and Schwan’s USA CUP have teamed up with Lampson on Kick Cancer day at USA CUP this year.
At the age of 17, Lampson was just like any other high school senior in Cleveland, Ohio, excited to begin his freshman year at Northern Illinois University, where he would play on the soccer team. After being denied donating blood at a blood drive and with a lymph node on his neck, Lampson’s parents took him to the doctor. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Stage IVB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. For Lampson, his life plans came to a screeching halt.
“It was devastating because it puts your whole life on hold,” Lampson said. “I was trying to go from senior year high school to college and you are absolutely stuck. Your mindset and values totally shift.”
After eight months of chemotherapy and six months of radiation, Lampson was deemed cancer free. Lampson battled to get back on the pitch through his treatment.
“I never once thought I would play at a high level again,” Lampson said. “I just wanted to play again. I tried to play as much as I could during treatment, but it is hard because your body isn’t capable of playing.”
Lampson wasted no time getting back to playing at a high level. He played three seasons at the Ohio State University, where he earned the starting role. After graduation, Lampson signed with his home state MLS team, Columbus Crew SC. After becoming a professional soccer player, he knew he could make a difference and the LampStrong Foundation was founded in 2014. Lampson wanted to help because of what he had seen during his battle with cancer.
“When I would go into treatment and I would see two and three-year old’s, whose whole life was going to the hospital because that is all they knew, it is heart-wrenching and I don’t think anyone deserves that type of life,” Lampson said. “I would see those things and the horrible lives they had to lead and I wanted to make their lives better.”
Matt Lampson (second from left), joined teammates (left to right) Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg, and Mason Toye at a World Cup watch party at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in late June.
After four years with Columbus, he signed with the Chicago Fire in 2016. On January 18, Lampson was traded to Minnesota United FC, a move that was challenging for the goalkeeper.
“It sucked at first because I worked very hard to make connections in different cities and when it gets uprooted it really sucks,” Lampson said. “At the same time, I have the opportunity to do it in another city and expand the message that I have. I have made great relationships here at Masonic (University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.) I have met a ton of people, who have found hope and inspiration in what I’m doing here.”
According to Lampson, he can develop close relationships with young cancer patients for one reason, relatability.
“Relatability is number one. I just met a little girl, who is probably two years old and a guy in a jersey, she might know you’re a pro soccer player, but when she sees a port scar, she goes ‘oh he’s just like me.’ When you can connect with them on that level, it is significantly more meaningful that a thriving adult who is a big and strong guy, who has done exactly what they have done.”
Minnesota United FC’s mascot PK with a young fan at the World Cup watch party.
The LampStrong Foundation works on providing financial, emotional and motivational support for children with cancer. Lampson has been known to bring children battling cancer, or Heroes as Lampson calls them, to MLS games.
“Every single game, home or away, I have a cancer patient and their family come to the game and I meet them on the field after the game. Anytime you get to come out on the field after a game, it is a very cool experience. It helps them feel normal again, which you crave when you’re going through chemotherapy treatment.”
Although the foundation supports pediatric cancer patients of all ages, Lampson likes to focus on older children and young adults.
“I identify with them more, I think it is a forgotten age group when it comes to cancer patients. There is either a focus on young pediatric patients or adults.”
Lampson’s advice to young people, who are going through something as difficult as a cancer diagnosis is to find inspiration.
“Find something that inspires you to keep fighting and use the second chance you have earned in life.”
Tag(s): NSC Blog