RIP Mac Sinise - Touching Tribute of Catholic Actor Gary Sinise to his Beloved Son who Died after a Battle with Cancer at Age 33

Catholic Actor Gary Sinise, known for his many movies including Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, announced the death of his son Mac, at age 33, from a rare form of cancer. 
Gary Sinise is also known for his Foundation, which honors, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. Gary, age 68, and his wife Moira Harris, have 3 children: McCanna Anthony Sinise, Sophie Sinise, and Ella Sinise. His website gave this touching obituary about his gifted son. 
In Honor & Memory of McCanna Anthony
“Mac” Sinise - 1990 - 2024
On February 27, 2017, our son Mac joined the team at Gary Sinise Foundation as our Assistant Manager of Education & Outreach. I was thrilled and excited to have him come on board to help me with the mission. His job duties included handling and digitizing our Gary Sinise Foundation archive and managing our Education & Outreach Center, which included hosting events, giving tours, stewarding donors, and outreach with the military service members, veterans, first responders and families who were recipients of our support. With his engaging and upbeat personality, he inspired folks through our Gary Sinise: A Call-to-Action exhibit in the Education & Outreach Center, and he assisted in everyday activities, and local and national events also. As a father, having him as part of the Foundation was a gift. He was a great representative who cared about the mission and those we serve, and I was eager to watch him grow with the organization.
I was always happy to have him join me on the road, and I could see how much joy and pride he shared in our mission. Especially when he could be hands-on with those we serve, like at our Soaring Valor events honoring our nation's WWII heroes, and our Invincible Spirit Festivals, where we bring the Lt. Dan Band to uplift our wounded at military hospitals across the country.
Mac had been playing drums since he was nine years old and was an exceptional drummer. He would substitute for my drummer, Danny Gottlieb, when Danny was unavailable to play our Lt. Dan Band shows. Those were some great times, father and son rockin' out together for the troops.
(VIDEO Mac's Birthday with a Surprise Visit of Harry Connick Jr)

The summer of 2018 was a particularly challenging time for our family. In June of that year, my wife Moira was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and after surgery to remove lymph nodes, she began chemotherapy and radiation. Then, on August 8th, we found out that Mac was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called Chordoma. What was happening? What is Chordoma? I had never heard of this. And two cancer patients, mother and son, within two months of each other? A real punch in the gut. I went online to see what I could find. Chordoma is a one in a million cancer. Originating in the spine, Chordoma affects, on average, only 300 people in the U.S. per year. In 70% of the cases the initial tumor can be removed, and it is cured. But in 30% of the cases, perhaps about 90 people per year, the cancer returns.

Thankfully, after months of treatment, Moira went into remission and has been cancer-free ever since. With Mac, after surgery to remove the initial tumor in September of 2018, and another spine procedure in February 2019 to clear what looked like an infection, unfortunately a follow up scan in May of 2019 would show that his Chordoma had come back and was spreading. This began a long battle that disabled him more and more as time went on. The cancer fight was getting harder, but throughout most of 2019 he was still able to come to the GSF office, until a third spine surgery in November of that year.
While in recovery at home, he was still eager to contribute to the Foundation and he was excited to launch our Gary Sinise Foundation podcast. He was just getting started, completing two interviews, the first with our Gary Sinise Foundation video producer Kip Perry, and the second with yours truly. In January of 2020, the day before he went in for his 4th spine surgery, Mac and I sat down together for his GSF podcast interview with me. This would finish his work with Gary Sinise Foundation. That year, he knew he had to step away to fight his battle. He would have to focus full-time on recovery and rehab, as there would be a fifth spine surgery in June, along with radiation and continuing chemotherapy.

With Chordoma being such a rare form of cancer, there are very few medical centers doing research. During our long and challenging fight, we were blessed to have the support of the Chordoma Foundation. They are the only organization whose sole mission, 24/7, is to find a cure for this rare orphan cancer and beat Chordoma. In 2021, we created this “Team Mac” page so that friends and family asking how they could help support Mac could do so through encouraging messages, and by helping to raise funds for much-needed research to find treatments for Chordoma.

Mac was a graduate of the USC Thorton School of Music. While in school, he continued his drumming and studied songwriting and composition. Now, due to his disability, as he could no longer play drums or piano, he had assumed that music was a thing of the past. But in early 2023, he started thinking about working on a piece of music called “Arctic Circles” that he had written in college but never finished. He asked me if I thought our pal Dan Myers, violinist and singer for my Lt. Dan Band, would help him work on it. I suggested he contact Dan. He did, and they started texting ideas back and forth, Mac working on the piece from his hospital bed at home or in his wheelchair. The cancer had paralyzed him from the chest down, but he still had limited use of his right arm, and fingers on his left hand. Being right-handed, he would strap a stylus to his right hand, and he could punch letters and notes into his phone or iPad. He also had a small keyboard he laid on his hospital bed table that he used to work on his music. In April of 2023, Dan recommended reaching out to our longtime friend and fellow bandmate, pianist Ben Lewis. Mac sent a chart of “Arctic Circles” to Ben, and they went back and forth shaping Mac's vision for the piece, with Ben recording piano versions of the composition and sending them to Mac for notes. Mac's name for “Arctic Circles” was inspired by the wintery nature shows he loved watching while lying in his hospital bed.

He had recently reconnected with an old friend from college, composer and arranger Oliver Schnee.

In June, Mac sent Oliver a scratch piano track of “Arctic Circles” that Ben had recorded. Oliver loved it. Mac asked if he would help him finish it and they went to work. With notes going back and forth and a lot of fine tuning, Oliver finished a stunningly beautiful arrangement.

Mac had a vision of doing an entire album of music entitled Resurrection & Revival, with a theme of bringing something that was old or unfinished back to life. Mac had three more originals and with more notes going back and forth between Oliver and Mac as they crafted the arrangements, they were now ready to go back into the studio. Two more sessions were scheduled for November 5th and 10th of 2023, this time in Nashville, to record the original pieces that Mac had written, and a group of songs that were special to him, featuring him on harmonica with members of the Lt. Dan Band. During our November 10th session at the legendary Blackbird Studio, Mac celebrated his 33rd birthday. He especially wanted to share it with my band. It was a very special day for him, and he asked me to play bass on one of the tunes, a cover of the old American folk song “Red River Valley,” with him playing harmonica. It is a song his mother used to sing to him and his sisters when they were little. That day was indeed a special day for the two of us.

The week the album went to press, Mac lost his battle with cancer. He died on January 5, 2024 at 3:25pm, and was laid to rest on January 23rd.

Like any family experiencing such a loss, we are heartbroken and have been managing as best we can. As parents, it is so difficult losing a child. My heart goes out to all who have suffered a similar loss, and to anyone who has lost a loved one. We've all experienced it in some way. Over the years I have met so many families of our fallen heroes. It's heartbreaking, and it's just damn hard. Our family's cancer fight lasted for 5 ½ years, and it became more and more challenging as time went on. While our hearts ache at missing him, we are comforted in knowing that Mac is no longer struggling, and inspired and moved by how he managed it. He fought an uphill battle against a cancer that has no cure, but he never quit trying. Mac loved movies, and we always told him he reminded us of the soldier at the end of the extraordinary film 1917, running through the battlefield, bombs going off all around him, knocking him down one after the other, yet he keeps getting back up, refusing to quit and keeps running forward.
I am so blessed, fortunate, and proud to be his dad.

His music videos can be seen in their entirety on Mac Sinise YouTube. Included with the video of “Arctic Circles” is a special text message from Mac that I found on his phone after his death. He intended to post it as he was so happy to share this piece of music with you all.

The album, Mac Sinise: Resurrection and Revival, will be finished and available soon. If you would like to pre-order the album, click here.

Our story is not unique. No one escapes cancer. It affects us all, as every one of us in this life knows someone, personally or otherwise, who has faced this awful disease. And that summer of 2018, being hit with two different cancers at the same time, was not easy. But over the years, through my mission to support our troops and families, I have met the most extraordinary people who have persevered and overcome the most difficult heartbreaking circumstances, and I have learned from them and been inspired by them. Knowing them gave me strength. Perhaps it was God's way of preparing me to meet our own difficult fight, having met and watched so many courageous families confronting what life had thrown at them.

Mac was a man who loved his Catholic faith, and there is no doubt that his strong faith sustained him through the awful 5 ½ year battle with this crippling Chordoma cancer.
“You have made us for yourself oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Mac's favorite quote from St. Augustine.
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