Onai has always dreamed about playing in the NFL for his favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks.
But when he was in the fourth grade, and just eight years old, Onai began experiencing debilitating headaches, which left him screaming in the middle of the night. His mother knew something was very wrong.
An MRI revealed Onai had a brain tumor located near his optic nerve and would need to undergo an unusually complicated brain surgery. Fearing he’d go blind, doctors left two-thirds of the tumor in place, which left a scar across the top of his head and required chemotherapy to continue battling the cancer.
The chemo had extreme side effects, but Onai insisted he keep playing football.
“We were on our way home from school and I said, mom pull over, and I just got out and started throwing up,” Onai told NBC’s TODAY Show. “And she's like well, let's just go home, we're not going to practice. I'm like ‘no! I want to go to practice.’ Where does that come from? I don't know, it's motivation.”
But three years after the surgery, Onai’s headaches came back. His tumor had nearly doubled in size. After visiting St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tenn., a doctor recommended a targeted proton beam therapy with a 95 percent success rate, rather than 50 percent success rate for the chemotherapy.
It’s been nearly three months since he completed the treatment and early returns show Onai’s tumor has significantly decreased. Onai is back to bench pressing his own weight, squatting 275 pounds and running the 40-yard dash in five seconds.
His Westfield Shamrocks are proud of his determination to return to the football field. Not to mention a few Seattle Seahawks players too.
“We’ve heard you’ve been training hard to get back on the field, keep it up and keep working hard,” Tyler Lockett said in a video message.
“And with that effort that you’re putting in, we know you’re going to achieve your dreams of becoming a football player,” DK Metcalf added in the video.
Maybe one day Onai will fulfill his lifetime dream of becoming a Seattle Seahawk. For now, he's enjoying another day of playing the game he loves.
“It’s just a fun sport,” Onai said. “It’s something to channel my energy and it helps me forget that I have a brain tumor. It makes me feel normal...