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“It sucks being in the hospital. You’re miserable,’’ Lampson said. “If you can just be treated like a normal kid for five minutes and forget that you’re in the hospital for five minutes and be happy for five minutes, that means the world. This kid probably wasn’t smiling for months, and then I go to see him, and I get his autograph, and he beams up. For him to smile and actually be happy for a second, that’s the real deal.”

Lampson had the same message for all six patients he met with that day: He has been through what they have. He has the chemo port scar on his chest to prove it. And there is a better future ahead. All of the kids received a United hat and scarf as well as an invitation to be one of his heroes at a game.

Nathalia Hawley, 14, took him up on that offer last weekend at the game against Montreal. When she met Lampson the previous Tuesday, she was giggly and vivacious, despite being in the hospital for osteosarcoma pain management. She told him about the last soccer game she went to, a 2015 Women’s World Cup match.

But on the TCF Bank Stadium field after the game, she burst into tears. That, in turn, made her family cry, too.

He’s seen that reaction before.

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Lampson took the news with a teenager’s instincts: He jumped on the internet to research his disease.

“I never dwelled on the possibility of death. So I think ultimately that helped me because my immediate response was, ‘What do I do to beat it?’ ” Lampson said. “I never really grasped the gravity of having a cancer diagnosis.”

Even after learning the cancer had spread through his chest — years later he found out such cases had about a 65 percent five-year survival rate — Lampson still made the trip from his Hilliard, Ohio, home to Iowa for his club soccer team’s regional tournament. The next day, he began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, which is no longer used, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

The drugs attacked the cancer, and the experience sapped Lampson’s youthful innocence.

“It took an incredibly large toll on me as a person,” said Lampson, who had to put college on hold. “Obviously at 17 years old, everybody graduates high school. Everybody else goes on with their lives. So you find out who really loves you very quickly. … I got incredibly cynical. I started to hate everything.”

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