In 2011, I attended a benefit seminar for the son of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Dan Miller. Dan’s son suffers from a genetic kidney disorder and he was in dire need of expensive treatments, including a kidney transplant. I was so inspired by the love and support given to the Miller family. However, I was also surprised that a formal charity did not already exist to assist members of the martial arts and mixed martial arts community suffering from life-threatening illnesses. I remember thinking at that time that someone should start such a charity. Two years later that “someone” is me. 

I am a cancer survivor. When I was younger I had Hodgkin’s Disease, a type of lymphoma.  I was treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and over the years I have had numerous surgeries. In January of 2013 I underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer and I am once again cancer free. The support from my extended family, namely my friends in the martial arts and MMA community, was unexpected and overwhelming.

During my continuing recovery I discovered so many more among us battling cancer and other awful diseases. I became best friends with Reggie “Wreckker” Cardiel, a former professional MMA fighter who was suffering from Stage 4 Neuroendocrine cancer. In addition, one month to the day of my surgery, my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teacher Mark Staniszewski’s one year old son, Jake, was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer.

I have been in and out of hospitals for twenty years, but when I started to see the people I love suffer from these awful illnesses, I knew I had to do something. So I created the organization Live To Fight  with the purpose of helping people in the martial arts and MMA community who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses. “Some live to fight. Others fight to live.” Reggie Cardiel, one of my inspirations for this organization, did both. Reggie lost his battle with cancer before Live To Fight came to fruition.

As a cancer survivor who has fought long and hard to win my battles, I understand the physical, mental, and financial burdens that serious illness places on an afflicted individual and their family. I believe that everything in my life has led me to starting Live To Fight. Now, as founder and president, I am inspired by people like Reggie and little Jake to work relentlessly on behalf of others in the martial arts and MMA community suffering from life-threatening illnesses so that they too can win their fights.