Becoming LampStrong

The life of a typical seventeen your old high school male should be riddled with friends, sporting events and, most importantly, girls. That is, of course, unless this "typical" male is forced to endure a task that no man, woman or child should be forced to assume. Cancer is a heinous, vile, and taxing menace that is the most miserable experience in the world, and yet cancer, is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

My journey began as the waning weeks of my senior year at St. Charles Preparatory in Columbus, Ohio were passing by. My aspiration for school work had ceased as "senioritis" had hit me hard, and I was anticipating my next stage in life as a student athlete in college. I had committed to play Division I soccer at Northern Illinois University, an hour away from Chicago.

While soccer proved to be an incredibly important part in my life, I was realistic in my venture and knew that the prospective of making a living from the game I loved would likely end in the next four years. At this point in time, I decided to do my part in a school blood drive.

As I sat patiently, waiting my turn to provide my O-, I was told that they would not accept my blood. This came as a shock to me and the woman explained that my hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells) was too low to donate. I went home that afternoon, explained the story to my father and also showed him a strange growth on the side of my neck. The two symptoms were far too troublesome to ignore for my father, who insisted I have the growth biopsied. And in the ensuing weeks, I quickly morphed from the "typical" high school male, to one that was fiercely fighting for his life.

I had been diagnosed with Stage 4B Hodgkins Lymphoma. While this was a blood cancer, specifically affecting the lymphatic system, it was determined that the cancer had spread to my lungs, pancreas and some bones. The news came as a shock to me, at seventeen years old it was fairly difficult to comprehend. My friends, colleagues and teammates would all continue with their lives while I was forced to fight for my life. As each day passed, sustaining countless amounts of needles, chemotherapies, pills and hospital visits, I quickly found that I had to become strong. But I was unable to accomplish the feat of beating cancer alone, it was imperative that my family, the Lampson's, be strong with me: WE had to become, LampStrong.

A bit more than a year later, having undergone chemotherapy, radiation and radical weight gain, I found myself cancer free and out of treatment. The experience of being on the brink of death and fighting for one's own life truly changed me. It made me realized what was most important in life. My values, goals, desire, passion, priorities and drive had all changed. If I was capable of beating cancer, there was not a thing in the world that I could not do. Cancer has made me the person I am today.

I had quickly transferred from Northern Illinois to The Ohio State University in order to be closer to home and I was accepted on the men's soccer team. I made it my goal, to prove to myself and everyone that supported me that I was going to be the starting goalkeeper. My determination and ambition set me apart. I would stop at nothing to become as good as I possibly could be. As time passed, I found not only had I become the starting goalkeeper in my Freshman season, but that if I stuck to what got me where I was, I would have the opportunity to play professionally someday. Following my graduation in my junior year of eligibility, that opportunity, that dream, came true. I was signed by my hometown team, The Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

While at The Ohio State University, I had always wanted to give back. I wanted to do something to support blood cancer awareness and research, but for whatever reason, whether it be maturity, ignorance or time, I never made the impact that I wanted to. In my second year as a professional, I decided that "the time was now." Through the help of the Columbus Crew community relations staff and the senior director of marketing, I struck up a partnership with The Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Central Ohio. To my surprise, they asked me to represent them as their spokesperson. This came as both an honor and a privilege to me as I had never expected anything like this to happen. As my role blossomed, I was found myself at nearly every event LLS hosted, sharing my story, being an example and instilling hope in those battling.

As I grew more comfortable in my role, I found that I may be able to make the entire city of Columbus "LampStrong." And thus, The LampStrong Foundation was born. Not only have we raised over $15,000 in the few weeks the foundation has existed, but we are helping put blood cancer awareness on the national scene.

The money, however, comes second to what LampStrong has done for current cancer patients. For the first time since my treatment, I was able to meet, support, and truly inspire men women and children and their families to believe that cancer is just the beginning. I have attempted to spread the message that although surviving cancer is a massive accomplishment, it proves to be nothing compared to what one is able to achieve with their second chance at life.

Surviving is only half of the battle, once you have won that battle, it is up to you to make sure that you strive to make a difference and become LampStrong.