As an eight year veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial arts fans are used to seeing Joe Lauzon throw down and put people to sleep inside the Octagon.
While the Bridgewater native is set to do battle once again at Foxwoods on Friday night, it’s his baby son Joey who’s already won the biggest fight of the summer.
Born to Lauzon and his fiancé Katie Silva in January of this year, baby Joey was forced to come out of the womb swinging after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a common form of cancer in infants.
“He was born Jan. 12, which was a Sunday, and they transferred us to Children’s Hospital on Thursday. On Friday, they said, ‘Oh, you’re going to meet with a bunch of specialists,’ then the only specialists that came around was oncology,’’ Lauzon recently told Boston.com. “They were pretty sure what it was but did a biopsy to confirm, and then he started chemo right away.’’
Aside from some breathing issues at birth, the couple wasn’t sure what else Joey was in for until doctors revealed that their son had a tumor the size of an adult fist pushing on his spinal cord.
Initially, it looked like it was going to be a long and painful road for little Joey.
“They kind of gave us a worst case scenario,’’ Lauzon said. “They were like, ‘We’re not going to sugarcoat this. You should expect eight rounds of chemotherapy. You should expect surgery. you should expect radiation.’’’
While Lauzon and Silva took solace in the fact that the cancer was detected very early on, it was still hard for them to watch their son go through such an aggressive treatment plan.
However, baby Joey proved to be an inspiration for his parents, and acted like a true warrior through it all.
“He had a chest tube, he was intubated at one point, he was on all kinds of breathing stuff, and he really didn’t complain, didn’t cry that much,’’ Lauzon said. “He would just suck a little bit harder on his pacifier. He did a really good job of just pushing through and dealing with it.’’
Like his father, Joey decided to finish the fight early, and was declared cancer free on July 3 after just three rounds of chemotherapy.
“We were really surprised at how well he did, because we were expecting a really, really more intense treatment than he actually got,’’ Silva said. “But he just did so well, and his cancer just responded so quick and so well to the chemo that he only needed three rounds.’’
Despite the good news, little Joey didn’t come out of treatment completely unscathed, as he must wear hearing aids due to mild hearing loss in one ear and moderate hearing loss in the other.
Joey will also be more at risk for things like childhood leukemia and certain forms of heart disease, but Lauzon admits that things could have been much worse for his baby boy.
“That’s kind of crappy, but when you compare that to the possibility of a wheelchair or all kinds of other bad stuff, it’s not that bad,’’ Lauzon said.
With his son’s ordeal now behind him, Lauzon is now focusing on his upcoming match-up with “The Ultimate Fighter’’ season 15 winner Michael Chiesa at Foxwoods on Sept. 5.
“J-Lau’’ can’t thank his fiancé enough for keeping their household in order as his training camp geared up over the summer.
“I’m always in the gym, and with this stuff, obviously, I wasn’t in the gym as much as I would have been otherwise, but Katie did an awesome job,’’ Lauzon said. “She was the one getting up with him all the time. When he woke up in the morning, she was the one getting up with him. I was able to do everything that I wanted to do and needed to do in camp.’’
Following his fight against Chiesa, Lauzon and the rest of Team Joey will be participating in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk on Sept. 21. The couple hopes to raise over $100,000 for the Boston Children’s Hospital, whom they credit with saving Joey’s life.
“They saved his life. They knew exactly, just from looking at one x-ray that hadn’t even been done at Children’s, they knew that he had cancer,’’ Silva said. “We felt so confident in all the decisions that they made for him. We just knew that he’s in the best place, they were taking the best care of him.’’
Regardless of the outcome on Friday night, the Lauzon family knows they’ve already won the biggest fight of the year, and just hope the best for their little Joey going forward.
“It was definitely inspiring on my end, the fact that here’s this little tiny baby with cancer and he kicked its butt,’’ Lauzon said. “If he could go through that, he can do anything.’’