Updated: Sep 7, 2020
This blog is for updates and stories from our journey as a family, and as a foundation dedicated to serving AYA cancer patients and their partners, caretakers, and families. However, for our first entry, I would like to let you get to know me a bit, and explain a little to you about how the "Home Team" came to life.
Thanks Dad, I love you.
The phrase "Home Team" has been a significant part of the Love for Life Foundation's story long before the foundation was ever a concept. Ever since I was playing T-ball, and probably before then, my Dad and I had this Home Team thing going on. At first glance, it's clear to see the correlation to sports. Considering my huge background in baseball, that makes a lot of sense. As I've grown a bit older, and a bit wiser (I think), I realize that Home Team stretches far beyond a baseball field, and far beyond the unbreakable bond between a father and son. My little brother joined the team when I was 8, and even if I didn't realize it at the time, the team was much bigger than the 3 of us. When the phrase was created, it would prove to be something that had a deeper meaning and bond to it than Matt would have ever imagined. Home Team signifies the idea that no matter what, I am here for you. That means no matter what. Regardless of what life comes our way, I have your back, and I am not going anywhere. If you're going through it, I will go through it with you, and you will never be alone. If you fall, I will pick you back up. If you get lost, I will be here to help you find your way. I love you.
At first, I thought it was a "me and my old man," kind of thing. I loved that idea while it was one. Growing up, Dad was my best friend. Today, he still is. Regardless of what he and I have been through over the years, and how many times I have given my parents good reason to discontinue their support of me and my life, they always kept believing in me. What a lucky guy. What an awesome team. Later in life, I realized that the deal included my mom - she has always been the team captain - and my older siblings from her previous marriage as well. Now, I always have had an incredible bond with those two. It wasn't until January 10th of this year, on my little brother and my older sister's birthday, when I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer, that I realized just how massive the home team truly was.
My wife and I are lucky enough (and worked hard enough) to call the miraculously beautiful island of Oahu our home. When the news broke, it seemed like the entire island was behind us. We had support from our family and friends all across the mainland, and even in countries around the world, but the energy that we received from our Ohana on Oahu was unparalleled by anything else in the world. Well before Dr. O'Brien gave us our diagnosis at Straub Medical in Honolulu, Alex and I knew we were going to get married. She is one of the reasons I'm on this earth today. 4 weeks after Dr. Maldini successfully removed the golf ball-sized tumor and 60% of my stomach with it, and 8 days before we embarked on a journey to California where I would receive my chemotherapy treatments under the supervision of Dr. Edward Kim at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, we got married. With about 48 hours notice to our friends on island, they showed out on the big day in a mob of color and love and absolute magical beings. We knew we were going to be just fine, we had more love on our side than we could imagine in our wildest dreams. That love and the love from our families on the mainland, combined with the love we share with each other was exactly what we needed to make it through the storm.
Did I mention my wife is awesome?
My father is one of the toughest guys you'll ever meet. For the last 7 years, the Home Team has been the #1 supporter for him during his battle with Parkinson's disease - a direct result of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina. My mother has been the leader of the caretaking pack day in and day out. A former athlete, a Marine, and an all-around wonderful man; my dad is also one of the softest guys you'll ever meet, too. Momma has always led the pack, and no matter what she has been through, she has always leaned into love and positivity for answers. She usually gets them, and she has shared her love and strength so selflessly that she has created an army of love-filled troops ready to make a serious impact on communities across the country. For me, my parent's unbeatable work ethic, their love for their family and others, their hearts-of-gold and their willingness to drop everything to help others is exactly what I wish to translate in my own life.
For The Foundation, it is no different.
This is where it all comes full circle, and we really see the connection. You, reading these words right now, are a member of the home team just as significant as myself, my Pops, Momma Bear, Alex, Lukie, Ash or Jarrod, or anyone else. Your involvement may not have been a part of our journey in the past, but we are right here, right now.
You may not be in a position to support us financially right now, and that is okay. We never want anyone to jeopardize their financial security to support our cause, we want you to take care of yourself first. Even if you are, I will still present you with this opportunity for growth...a personal challenge with yourself if you will. From this moment on, realize (and you might already) that you yourself are a walking miracle. Your life is a miracle. I want you to seize every opportunity you get to some love into somebody's life - starting with your own.
Whether you are facing a life-threatening illness, or not, we are here for you. Yes, we focus hard on AYA Cancer Support. We are working day and night to better our support network for our adolescent and young adult brothers and sisters who are currently facing the greatest challenge of their lifetime. At the very same time, I personally want you to know love extends beyond any borders, ages, diagnosis, religion, orientation, political preferences, beliefs, or anything else that could possibly get between us. That is exactly why you can find my phone number all over the website. Our family is here for you.
The Love for Life Foundation is your Home Team.
Before I let you go, I want you to remember that no matter what, I am here for you. That means no matter what. Regardless of what life throws our way, I have your back, and I am not going anywhere. If you're going through it, I will go through it with you, and you will never be alone. If you fall, I will pick you back up. If you get lost, I will be here to help you find your way. I see you. I hear you. I love you.
If you could use a little love, or if you want to help us spread the love, call me.