LOS ANGELES – In honor of Kick Childhood Cancer Month, LA Galaxy goalkeeper Matt Lampson recently sat down with LAGalaxy.com's Adam Serrano to discuss his experience of overcoming cancer and how the experience helped him become a professional soccer player.
Lampson was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin's Lymphoma just a week after graduating from high school. After rigorous months of chemotherapy treatments, doctors declared Lampson cancer-free three months later. From there, Lampson’s new perspective catapulted him to success at Ohio State University and ultimately MLS where he has played eight seasons for four clubs.
In our conversation, Lampson, the man lovingly referred to by one writer as the curmudgeon with a heart of gold, speaks about overcoming cancer and his favorite confection.
What was it like on June 10, 2007, the day that you found out that you with diagnosed with cancer?
“That was my sister’s birthday, and she was the last person to find out that I was diagnosed with cancer. So, Happy Birthday, Erin. It was the start of a new life for me. As soon as I found out, all I wanted to do was find out how I could beat it. It was an immediate mentality change rand through the process of treatment; you realize what your values are.”
How have you turned this situation from a positive to a negative?
“It’s made me who I am today, and I’m very grateful for it. Most people think having cancer is a negative, but for me, I had to change it into a positive. It’s why I’m a professional athlete; it’s why I’m helping these kids; it’s why I am who I am today. I’m grateful for it.”
What made you start the LampStrong Foundation? Would you call yourself a humanitarian and a philanthropist?
“There’s a lot of terms where people have to be dubbed by other people. Other people have to call you these things. I’ve been called a humanitarian twice by MLS. If that makes me a humanitarian, that’s great. A philanthropist? I think I can spell it if I had a few chances, but I don’t do it for the recognition.
“If I’m able to reach one person and inspire them to live their life with the second chance that they have after treatment to live their life at their utmost, that’s great. I don’t care what you call me; it doesn’t change what I’m going to do. A lot of people called me an ahole? So, am I a philanthropic ahole?”
Every game you meet with kid dealing with cancer, why do you do this? What do you want to instill in them?
“I have the whole family out to the game, and depending on the age of the kid, it often means more to the parents to see what their child can be after they complete treatment. That type of impact is incredibly meaningful for a parent who knows that there is a possibility that their kid could die, but when I show the kids my port scar and they realize that I’ve gone through the same ordeals and recognize what I’m doing now, well, that type of hope is like nothing else you can fabricate.
“Celebrities will go into the cancer wing all the time, but until you can relate to the patient undergoing chemotherapy, it’s difficult to comprehend what it could mean. Any time I can provide an escape to the kids that I’m meeting and have them feel like a normal kid again, that’s what keeps me going.”
On a different note, you have a deep passion for donuts, where does that come from?
“I’ve always had trash taste buds and growing up; I could go through cases upon cases of Zebra Cakes, Nutty Bars, Honey Buns. And between Little Debbies, Hostess, I didn’t discriminate; I realized that confections were my lifeblood and gave me the most happiness in life. Needless to say, I was fat, and as I continued to develop into a young fat man, I developed an appreciation for greatness in donuts.
“When I went to Chicago, and this is debatable because you have New York and Los Angeles, but Chicago, which I believe is one of the meccas of donuts. The first time I put Do-Rite Donuts into my mouth, I knew that I had to devote myself to exceptional donuts. If I put sub-par donuts in my mouth, I will not hold back. I think it’s a service for people to know where the best donuts are and what makes them truly great. This love has developed for the people so that they know what greatness in the donut world is.”
For more information on Matt Lampson’s LampStrong Foundation visit: https://www.lampstrong.com/