Spartyka MMA event to benefit cancer survivor
VIRGINIA BEACH -- In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), fighters and champions come in different shapes and sizes. Their training, dedication and conditioning often becomes a mantra, and being the best at the sport is simply a way of life.
For one fighter, Thomas K. Poey, Jr., owner of Poey’s School of Martial Arts in Virginia Beach and a 25-year veteran of amateur/professional MMA, and wife Tara Poey, the idea of fighting took on a much deeper meaning when their youngest son Maddox was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma at just 7 months old.
“We would walk into a room and he wouldn’t even acknowledge that we were in the room, so we knew something was wrong,” said Thomas, noting an eye specialist in Norfolk first diagnosed the tumors in Maddox’s eyes and referred the family to Dr. Carol L. Shields, the co-director of Ocular Oncology Service at WillsEye Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa., for treatment.
Maddox, now 2.5 years old, had the most advanced stage of the disease in his right eye, a category e, and a category d in his left eye. Tests showed nine tumors on his retinas, which blocked almost all of his vision and doctors even discussed possible eye removal to avoid the spread of cancer to his brain, Thomas said. After magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed the cancer was contained within the eyes, he said, chemotherapy was used to reduce the size of the tumors to help restore Maddox’s vision.
“He did six months of chemo,” said Thomas. “After one chemo treatment, his largest tumor had shrunk to half-size.”
“With the treatments, with people from all over praying and nutrition – my wife is big into nutrition, so he’s on a very strict diet with a lot organic products, vegetables, no processed foods – between those three things, [Maddox] has regained almost all of his vision back,” he said.
Maddox and his family have traveled back and forth to Philadelphia more than 20 times within the last two years for treatments, spending upwards of a week at a time. Although the treatments have been successful to date, Maddox isn’t completely cancer free and officially out of the woods.
“Those nine tumors have been destroyed, but for the past year and a half, we’ve been dealing with reoccurring tiny [cancer] seeds popping back up in his eyes that if not treated will turn back into large tumors,” said Thomas. “They do laser treatments pretty much every month, month and a half to make sure they don’t grow.”
Despite battling the disease and enduring countless treatments, Maddox, affectionately called “The Miracle” by family and friends, is an active and happy toddler.
“He’s normal … runs around, loves martial arts, loves fighting,” said Thomas with a confident smile. “He’s big into Rocky [Balboa], so it works out perfect being in Philly … we try to go up a little bit early because he loves running the ‘Rocky Steps’ [the 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia] because he sees it in the movies all the time. He’s obsessed with that, always wants to get in the ring up there and pretend he’s Rocky and I’m Apollo … he knows all the characters!”
“[Maddox is] the toughest guy I know, really. I can’t believe some of the stuff he’s gone through and the way he acts, you would never know it because he’s a happy kid, he runs, plays,” he continued. “Me being a former professional fighter myself, I often say, ‘I don’t think I could have done it.’ He’s had injections in his eyes where his eyes have swollen up to almost baseball size and all the chemo and everything else he’s gone through. For him to act the way he acts is unbelievable.”
Thomas said he has received a lot of support for Maddox from his family and the martial arts community, but with the expenses of constant travel and family lodging, and the costs associated with Maddox’s treatments, the family’s finances are often put into a difficult position.
To help alleviate some of the family’s financial burden, Spartyka Fight League (SFL) is scheduled to host a special MMA event (SFL XIII) in Maddox’s honor at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk on Oct. 19. The event is fittingly named “Miracles For Maddox” and a percentage of ticket sales will go directly to the Poey family.
“We want to try to raise as much money as we can. There is a very tight community amongst the MMA fighters – everyone is very close and everyone knows everyone around here – so we are hoping we get a lot of people to come out,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jimi Partyka, owner and founder of Spartyka Nation, a trio of companies consisting of an apparel line, race team and MMA fight promotion. Partyka was awarded the 2013 Hampton Roads Military Volunteer of the Year by VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads for his work with Wounded Warriors and is also in the process of filing for 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
Partyka will close out the year with 19 Spartyka-sponsored events between MMA fight promotion, Wounded Warrior support events and running/charity events, all while being on deployable status as a Navy platoon leading chief petty officer and completing 12 international trips with the Navy. The last Spartyka fight at the Constant Center was the largest amateur MMA event ever hosted in the state of Virginia and the fight card for this event is looking equally promising with fighters coming in from across the U.S. to compete inside the 26 foot hexagon.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be in the military, serve my country and at the same time be able to give back to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice – those that have been injured,” said Partyka, “… and it’s also great to work with people like the Susan G. Komen Foundation and now with Maddox.”
For more information about “Miracles For Maddox” or to purchase tickets, visit www.spartykafightleague.com. Tickets are $25 for general admission. The event will start promptly at 7 p.m., doors open at 5:30 p.m.
If you are interested in sponsoring or volunteering for an upcoming Spartyka event, email Jimi Partyka at email@example.com, or call 515-6538.
For more information about Spartyka Nation, visit www.spartykanation.com.