Michael Miyamoto, a Walnut High School graduate in the class of 2012, died Thursday after a long battle with leukemia.
The 18-year-old inspired the local community during his 11-year cancer fight, participating in both the Diamond Bar and Walnut Relay for Life events. Miyamoto was first diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL, when he was 7.
ALL is the most common form of cancer in children, according to the National Cancer Institute. The disease is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
He had been in remission following a bone marrow transplant in September 2011, but the cancer returned for the fourth time in September of this year.
In May, the teen spoke during the Diamond Bar Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony about his remission and the joy of getting back to the things he loved.
“I went back to school on Jan. 16,” he told the crowd. “Last month I ran a 10K. I’ve gone snowboarding five times. I went to winter formal and prom. My life is good now. I am alive I have a future and will be graduating with my friends and going to college. And I am grateful for every new healthy day.”
Stephany Yong, who graduated high school with Miyamoto and served as a Walnut Relay for Life volunteer, said her classmate left a big impression.
“I didn’t know him well,” said the Stanford University freshman. “But you didn’t have to know him well to know how much of an impact he made and what he meant to the community. I think he’s a hero.”
Yong added that Miyamoto had tons of friends who offered him support and that his fight against cancer prompted other young people to get involved with Relay for Life.
“Michael did really help make it what it was because his story was so inspiring,” she said.
Friends, classmates, and those who had heard of Miyamoto’s death took to Twitter to express their condolences and share thoughts about him.
Wajeeha Shamsi wrote “Rip to the strongest, most genuinely wonderful person I've ever known. Michael Miyamoto will always be in my heart.”
Tiffanie Hoang also shared kind words about the teen.
“I am so so proud of how hard you fought this battle. Rest in peace Michael Miyamoto,” she tweeted. “You were the kindest soul I had the privilege to know."
Walnut High School Principal Jeff Jordan also issued a statement regarding the teen’s death.
“This is a sad day for the Miyamoto family,” Jordan wrote. “The staff and students at WHS were sad to hear about the passing of Michael. He was a courageous young man and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Brandon Leong, president of the Sabers/Saberettes Youth Basketball Organization, said that the Miyamoto family has been involved in the group for many years. Michael Miyamoto had played on the Saber Wizards team since age 7.
Dad Lindsay Miyamoto has served on the board of the organization, as well as on the board of the West Covina-based San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, Leong said.
The Miyamoto clan is the kind of family to get involved, so when Michael Miyamoto needed a bone marrow transplant in 2011, the organization and the center rallied to aid the family, he said. Leong helped to spearhead an effort last year to get community members to donate bone marrow through the Be the Match program.
A month after the drive began, more than 100 people had signed up for the program, he said.
The group last week sent out a message asking community members to become platelet donors.
Leong said the organization plans to continue its efforts.
“We are going to continue to educate people,” he said. “I think that’s something we can do in Michael’s memory. Michael was one person who battled leukemia, but there are so many out there with similar stories.”