BOSTON (CBS) — Matt Maypother’s first Boston Marathon will be a celebration of his life as a cancer survivor and a tribute to his father and other loved ones who have died from the disease.
He is running to raise money for cancer care and research at Dana Farber Cancer Institute where he had life-saving surgery and treatment as a toddler.
Matt’s mom, Karen (who rides the Pan Mass Challenge for Dana Farber) has run the Boston Marathon twice — as a thank you to the doctors at DFCI and as a way to help other patient families. When she ran her first marathon in 2005, Matt was her “patient partner.” Matt and his dad, Rick, ran the last mile with Karen and she crossed the finish line holding Matt’s hand.
Days after finishing her second marathon in 2010, Rick Maypother was diagnosed with cancer. He died six months later. Karen raised their three children — Matt, Abby and Luke — to use memories of their dad to motivate them, and it motivated Matt to run the 2018 Boston Marathon.
The 21-year-old admits he is not a runner. But he’s been training since December and hopes to finish within four hours.
“One thing my dad always told me was ‘don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Because you can do anything you put your mind to,'” recalled Matt.
Because he had cancer treatment at such a young age, doctors warned Karen and Rick that Matt might struggle academically and in sports. He delights in beating the odds. He’s been an athlete his entire life and will graduate from UMass Amherst next month. His goal is to become a counselor and football coach.
“I hope that some kids or parents will be inspired by Matt and know not to give up. You can get past this and live a normal life, and you can go after all your other dreams,” Karen says proudly.
Within the past year, she found a small “treasure” that may prove Matt’s desire to run the marathon was more deeply ingrained than even he realized. It was an assignment from fifth grade entitled “Matt Maypother’s Hopes & Dreams,” and reads: “In fifth grade, I hope to get 100 on a science test. And in ten years, I hope to run a marathon like my mom with my mom and dad.”
Karen says she’ll be Matt’s biggest cheerleader on the course next Monday. She was even tempted to run the race with him, but right now, is devoting her efforts toward another battle with cancer.
Karen met her fiancee Tom Mayotte in 2015. They traveled together, shared a love of Boston sports and even rode the Pan Mass Challenge together. Last May, Tom was diagnosed with glioblastoma and is currently undergoing treatment at Dana Farber.
“They say it can’t define you,” Karen says about cancer. “But in a way, it has defined us. Every time something bad happens, I feel our family gets tighter and tighter and closer. And we love each other more fiercely.
“We are going to rally around you and support you and love you,” she said, turning to Tom.
Tom will also be on the marathon route to cheer on Matt, who says if he hits a rough patch, he’ll dig deep and look to the sky.
“Whenever my family sees a hawk,” he explains, “we think it’s my dad watching over us. The other day I was training on the course. I was 12 miles in and I was starting to struggle. There was nobody around. I looked up to the sky and said, ‘I need one. I need one.’ Sure enough, 30 yards later, one flew right over my head. I cruised right to the end of my run.”
Click here to support Matt Maypother’s run for Dana Farber.