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'The Witness of Mac Sinise': Catholic Actor Gary Sinise Tells Story of Late Son Who Battled Rare Cancer

Gary Sinise, a father, actor, producer, and the founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation joinedThe World Over With Raymond Arroyo” to discuss his late son, Mac Sinise’s battle with cancer and love of music.

According to his father Gary, Mac began drumming at the age of nine and often performed with his father’s Lt. Dan Band as a substitute drummer. He graduated from the USC Thornton School of Music where he studied composition and songwriting.

Gary tells Arroyo that after Mac graduated and continued with his music, he was not as happy as he thought. Mac came home to regroup and Gary introduced him to a Catholic counselor. 

“It was Bishop Robert Baron who confirmed Mac into the [Catholic] Church in 2017. This was probably 14 months before he was diagnosed with cancer. The Church and his faith…became such a big part of his life.”

Mac was diagnosed in 2018 with chordoma, a rare form of tissue cancer. After experiencing extreme pain and discomfort, Mac was sent to a spinal surgeon for CT scans. It was then that an orange-sized tumor was discovered on his tailbone. 

“Unfortunately, about eight months later, we found out that the cancer came back and it was starting to spread. Then, we found out right around Christmastime in 2019 that there was more tumor on his neck. So he’s going to have to go in early 2020 and get another surgery on his neck to remove the tumor.” 

Gary notes that Mac had multiple procedures to remove tumors and spent several months in the hospital. However, after removing the tumor from his spine, he experienced damage to his right side. 

“By the time he got home, he was now in a wheelchair,” Gary explains. “He’s doing multiple different drugs that they’re trying him on to fight the cancer but there are no drugs for chordoma.”

Mac’s friend, Oliver Schnee, whom he had lost touch with, began sending Mac text messages and voicemails. Schnee stated that Mac did not respond, but after sending him some old photos he came across from their younger days at Disneyland, he finally replied. The two planned to meet and catch up, however, Schnee hadn’t yet heard the news about Mac’s health. 

“I drove to his house, [and] my heart broke when I saw Mac. Nothing could have really prepared me for just how heavy it was, especially knowing that he was a drummer and now being paralyzed he couldn’t even play his instrument as a form of catharsis. That really hit hard,” Schnee tells Arroyo. “But what I did notice was that his attitude and his spirit was still incredibly upbeat. It was very admirable and inspiring to witness.”

Mac stated:

“I was trying to write music and stuff again and I had stopped quite a bit. Just been focusing on trying to get my health back in shape and just to fight this battle of cancer, and in the process, writing music has been a huge therapy for me.”

Mac found an old piece of music he left unfinished in college that he hoped to complete with a full orchestra. After sending the music to Schnee and taking note of Mac’s health, the two decided to finish the project. 

“It was this wild mixture of his body failing, but mentally, creatively, [and] spiritually he’s still going, and there’s still a lot of music inside him that wants to come out and that needs to come out,” Schnee shares.

“Since he started working on this project, he is back to being Mac. He’s smiling again, he’s waking up looking forward to the day ahead of him, and he rediscovered his purpose.

“Then he called and he said, ‘Hey man, I need to finish this.’ And I went, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘This project is keeping me going. It’s keeping me alive. I’m rediscovering my purpose so can we do a whole album.’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’” 

Schnee shares that Mac called him again, hoping to record with his dad one last time. 

“That was one of the most powerful and incredible moments through the whole last 12 months was being in Blackbird Studios. Something kicked into high gear, adrenaline or what, but he was able to play the song from top to bottom. When he couldn’t play 15 seconds a few weeks ago, he was able to play the whole song top to bottom.” 

Gary states, “Mac wanted to keep living in spite of the damage that was being done to him by the disease and  every moment that he had that he was feeling good he was taking advantage of it.” 

“Those days in the studio you can see he was alive in the studio. When you see those videos and he was enjoying those moments, his faith really sustained him a lot,” Gary continues.

“If you look in his Bible and you look in some of the books that he was reading, he was constantly underlining things that really jumped out to him and meant something to him. When I sit and read some of the things, it’s like Mac just telling me stuff. It’s like messages.” 

Mac Sinise died on Jan. 5, 2024, at the age of 33. 

Gary mentions that his experiences at the Gary Sinise Foundation, working with families and dealing with the loss of loved ones, helped him gain strength and courage for what was to come. 

“I prayed on it, and you know, we have a strong family…our  faith has been good to us and strong for us.”

Watch the full segment on EWTN:

Click here if you cannot see the video above.

Mac Sinise’s album, “Resurrection & Revival” can be purchased here.  

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