Concord High freshman adjusts to life without her father after his passing from colon cancer

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday.

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, laugh as they look at photos of Mike Bradley in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024.

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, laugh as they look at photos of Mike Bradley in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024.

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, laugh as they look at photos of Mike Bradley in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024.

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, laugh as they look at photos of Mike Bradley in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024.

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024.

Maia Bradley and her mother, Miiko, hold up a photo of Mike Bradley in one of his triathlon photos in the family kitchen on Saturday, March 30. 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 04-01-2024 5:10 PM

The visions her father left behind will keep Maia Bradley smiling for the rest of her life.

When she thinks of her father, Mike Bradley, she remembers his dedication to her, though he often wouldn’t talk about the great lengths he took. Think rising at 3 a.m. to secure her tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.

“He really wanted me to be happy,” Maia said. “He knew we could bond over (Swift).”

Looking back on memories like that brightened the mood for this only child, 14, her widowed mother, Miiko, and her grandmother, Ann Hebert, Mike’s mother.

Mike died last year on Dec. 3, three years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was 47, adding to the alarming trend of those younger than 50 who are contracting and sometimes dying from the disease.

Last month happened to be National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and details released by the medical community say that colorectal (colon or rectal) cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men younger than 50 and the second leading cause for women in the same age group.

Further, those born from 1981 to 1996 face twice the risk of suffering from colorectal cancer, compared to individuals born in 1950. Researchers have found nothing concrete to explain the rise, looking at factors like diet, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol and environmental factors like exposure to various chemicals.

That’s why the United States Preventive Services Task Force dropped the minimum suggested age for colon cancer screening from 50 to 45. For Mike, though, the change was not in time. The new age threshold was introduced around the time Mike was diagnosed – he was 44 at the time.

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“It was too late by then,” said Miiko, his wife of 15 years.

Mike, an accountant, was active. He was a triathlete, a center fielder with a rifle arm at Concord High School and a co-captain on one of Harvey Smith’s state championship tennis teams. He got his master’s degree in business from Plymouth State University.

Mike loved music and played drums in two bands, keeping the rhythm in local clubs now and then like the old Area 23. He loved to cook as well, entertaining friends with what he called Friendsgiving.

On Halloween, he enjoyed donning a costume, one year as a gladiator, Slash from the rock band Guns and Roses, a character from Orange is the New Black and a caveman.

His most memorable costume goes back to the Speedo he wore while imitating Will Ferrell from a Saturday Night Live skit. Miiko came home from work that day and saw her husband preparing for the role.

“Everything he did he did full on and he made his own costumes,” Miiko said. “I came home that day and he’s sitting on the couch bedazzling his Speedo with a glue gun while he’s watching TV.”

Mike felt pain in 2021 after a 10-mile bike ride. Doctors discovered colon cancer, which led to the formation of lesions on his liver. He had 46-hours of chemotherapy every other week, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night in pain, forcing him and Miiko to drive to Boston for an unscheduled appointment.

Maia often stayed home, asleep. She said her father never lost the focus and energy needed to ingratiate himself into his only child’s life. As Miiko said, Maia was “daddy’s little girl.”

Maia played lacrosse at Rundlett Middle School. She didn’t like it, but she appreciated the effort Mike made.

“He was always the type of person to encourage you and he was very chill,” Maia said. “I loved that he would say, ‘Let’s go outside and play catch.’ ”

Maia, Miiko and Ann essentially laughed at the same time, cried at the same time and grew silent at the same time. One mood fit all.

Maia, who is a freshman at Concord High School, is doing her best to bring back a sliver of normalcy. She knows people care about her, but she can’t help watching others, knowing that, for the most part, they retain what she lost.

“It took me a couple of weeks to get back to school,” Maia said. “I have a lot of close friends who knew about my father but I did not tell a lot of people. It was really hard to just go back when everything for everyone else is so normal and it’s not for me. I have very confusing feelings.”

Maia competes in crew on a club team and plays piano. In fact, father and daughter had mentioned jamming together, but there simply wasn’t enough time.

From here, Maia said she feels prepared for what life has to bring. She’s got the tools needed to thrive, and she thanks her father for that. She’s an honor student at Concord High and stays occupied between school and crew.

“I’m just trying to be the person he would want me to be,” Maia said. “I’m trying to keep the advice he gave me close to my heart. It’s not negative, it’s not about how sad it was that he was sick. It’s more like he was an amazing person and I am trying to model myself after him.”