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Matt Lampson: Sharing his second chance at life

Life is strange. 

Far too often, moments go unappreciated. Opportunities go unpursued. Days go uncherished. The majority of people in this world are stuck running on auto-pilot, going through the motions until a traumatic experience breathes recognition of all that life offers into them and changes the narrative. Why is this?

When a “second chance at life” is offered, it’s up to the recipient to make the most of it. That’s what goalkeeper Matt Lampson did, and it’s become his mantra.   

His second chance came on September 24, 2007 when he received the news he was cancer-free after being diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on June 10 of that year. He fought it with everything he had for 106 days and came out on top.

Monday marked 11 years cancer-free for Lampson. 

“I don’t like when people in general take their life for granted, because most people don’t understand how fragile and special it is,” said Lampson. “Having gone through what I did, it opened my eyes to the importance of life, and relishing and cherishing every day. Not only is my message to cancer survivors and patients to use their ‘second chance at life’ to make a difference and be impactful, it’s also for people that just go through their daily life without really appreciating what they have.” 

Motivated by his own experiences, Lampson founded the LampStrong Foundation — a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization — to give a support system to cancer patients and survivors, and to let them know that they’re not doing it alone, because when he was going through the process, he did it himself. 

The LampStrong Foundation has provided Lampson the opportunity to connect with cancer patients not only in Minnesota, but across the country through the LampStrong Heroes program. Whether the game is at home or on the road, there will be a LampStrong Hero in the stands during the game, and on the sideline catching up with Lampson afterwards. This has afforded Lampson the ability to swap stories with children and families all over, sharing positivity and inspiration through personally relating to each and every hero. 

Since moving to the Twin Cities, Lampson has partnered with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, where he visits monthly to spend time with patients. 

“It’s amazing to see Matt in the hospital setting,” said teammate Eric Miller. “He just has an extra level of relatability that honestly is amazing to witness firsthand. He’s such a thoughtful and genuine person — he really cares about how all the people there are doing. I think for them to have someone like him, who has been so successful after beating cancer, and to see how he’s thriving and doing so well, is amazing motivation for them.”

Lampson’s story of survival and success is not only admired by his teammates, it’s something his 17-year old self can feel fulfilled about.  

“Shut up” is what he thinks his 17-year old self would say to him today. “Something like that. That’s probably what I would say. Probably more colorful than that, but it would be something along those lines, because I’m a 17-year old having to get chemo. No, it would be probably, like, I would say I’m proud. I’m proud of you.” 

But what is he proud of, exactly?

It isn’t associated with the accolades he has received — like Humanitarian of the Year — or the stories people have written about him. It’s about the change he has been able to bring to people’s lives. It’s about touching a family and inspiring each child to go onto greatness when they’re done with treatment, and embrace their “second chance at life” to the fullest. 

It’s about what it means to everyone but himself. 

It’s the reward of his mission being received and practiced by those that he has had the opportunity to impart his message to. 

“There are four or five heroes that I’ve had that have completely embraced the message that I try to portray,” said Lampson. “And seeing them live their dreams and accomplish what they’re accomplishing after their treatment is heartwarming and humbling to me because they represent everything that I’ve been trying to do. It’s happened almost at every single team I’ve been on. There’s one in Columbus I can think of, two in Chicago and one here.” 

In this past weekend’s Kick Childhood Cancer game, each one of Lampson’s Heroes were honored at halftime and collectively received the L’Etoile Du Nord award, which recognizes people who embody Minnesota United’s core values and make a difference in the community. 

“I was really, really happy for them because they deserve to be recognized like that,” said Lampson. “They deserve that type of applause in front of all those thousands of people because most people in their lives don’t know what those kids go through on a daily basis. To me, they are heroes and they are a perfect representation of just determination and life and beauty that the world doesn’t get to see often.”