Shining Star: Maddux Maple

There’s no denying Maddux Maple has had an effect on his community. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age five, Maddux’s life has been filled with hospital visits, doctors, medication and pain. He’s had close calls that left parents Stephani and Mic Maple terrified.

RELATED: Jan. 22 declared Sunday declared ‘Cody Garbrandt and Maddux Maple Day.’

That doesn’t make him a victim. In fact, Maddux just describes himself as someone who enjoys riding bikes, swimming and playing guitar.

“As far as the community, he’s always …he has feet pain, leg and feet pain from the chemo that he struggles with every day, but people wouldn’t know it because he doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him,” Stephani said.

“Our community has been absolutely wonderful," she said. "In a situation like this, we’re very blessed to be in the community we’re in."

That community is small town Dennison, Ohio, located in the south end of Tuscarawas County.

Stephani says the people of Dennison and surrounding areas of have held fundraisers for Maddux’s expenses, brought food and gifts for Maddux and his nine-year-old sister Makyah, and consistently provided cards and prayers as Maddux kept up his battle to beat cancer.

Now, at age 10, Maddux is in remission, but there is an 80 percent chance the cancer could come back. To keep an eye out, he still has monthly hospital visits for scans and blood work.

“It’s a struggle, but it could always be worse," Stephani said. "When he has bad days, he’s very good at pushing himself, getting a smile on his face."

That determination to rise above inspires not only Maddux’s family, but another Dennison native: Cody Garbrandt, better known to Ultimate Fighting Championship fans as ‘No Love.’

“Cody reached out to us when he first got diagnosed,” Stephani said.

According to the Maple family, Garbrandt was struggling with his own battles at the time.

“At this time he was training and he wanted to quit,” Maddux said. “So his brother told him there’s this little boy in your hometown that has cancer and he’s fighting for his life and you’re quitting. Well, he can’t quit but you can. So then he kept fighting.”

Garbrandt reached out and met with Maddux at his home in January of 2012, pledging to donate funds from ticket sales at his next amateur fight to help with Maddux’s expenses. With Maddux receiving treatment at Akron Children’s Hospital, the expenses were racking up.

“From then on it was just a bond," Stephani said. "For Cody, there was something about Maddux, he always had a smile on his face, when he was sick, fighting whatever he was always smiling, and Cody was in a rough patch in his life we found out. From that day, January of 2012, they have texted, talked, Facetimed, ever since then."

In a UFC promotional video from July of 2015, Garbrandt explained how he draws strength for his career from Maddux’s fight to survive.

“He helped me put my life in perspective.," Garbrandt said. "He didn’t choose to have leukemia. He didn’t choose to have to get up and fight for his life every day, so he gives me motivation every day of my training and every day of my life. It humbles me and makes me work hard to make his dreams and my dreams come true.”

As far as childhood cancer goes, Maddux’s ALL leukemia is fairly common.

“It’s the ‘good type’ of cancer to have if there is such a thing. It’s most likely curable,” Stephanie said.

That doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. At one point, eight months before he was scheduled to finish treatment, Maddux was tired and miserable, unwilling to take his medication any longer.

“Cody called me and said, ‘buddy you just got to keep fighting,’” Maddux said.

Garbrandt promised to go pro in the UFC and take Maddux to the championship fight if he continued to take his medication.

“So I beat cancer and three months later Cody got signed to the UFC and his first fight was in January,” Maddux said. “The promise was made and kept.”

The symbiotic relationship continued when Garbrandt fought for the title belt in December 2016 in Las Vegas and had Maddux walk him to the ring. Upon winning, Garbrandt brought Maddux into the ring and put the title belt around his waist.

“It was awesome," Maddux said. "Best day of my life."

Now that he’s in remission, Maddux doesn’t shy away from hospitals. In fact, he says he wants to become a doctor when he grows up, expressing admiration for his own oncologist, Dr. Jeffrey Hord.

“He’s done as well as he can for as young as he is, given the hand he’s been dealt,” Stephani said.

He’ll have to remain vigilant about illness, watching out for fevers and bruises, likely for the rest of his life. Maddux had a scare just a few weeks ago when doctors found a mass during a scan, but later scans revealed it had disappeared.

“The doctor can’t explain it," Stephani said. "We said we don’t need it explained."

Maddux seems ready to meet the challenges ahead.

“You just got to keep chasing your dreams and just be tough," Maddux said. "You just got to keep fighting so you just don’t die and keep working toward beating cancer. Yes, it’s a long time and yes, it’s hard but you know once you beat it, it’s a lot better because you get to do a lot more things and it’s more fun so you have to look up and look at happy times and not bad times. Just don’t give up."

Maddux hopes to keep attending UFC fights, especially Garbrandt’s, though he says they’d also like to see sister Makyah’s idol, UFC fighter Paige VanZant, in the ring.

There’s no telling what the future holds, but the inspirational friendship between Maddux and Garbrandt seems poised to play a major role in both of their lives moving forward.

If you know someone like Maddux who has a positive impact on someone's life, we’d like to hear about it. Nominate them here.

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