How My Brother Inspired Me to Give Back

Mike and Matt Rallis have always been close as brothers, and it was this relationship that ultimately inspired Mike to give back to the CF community.

June 3, 2024 | 7 min read
A headshot of Mike Rallis
Mike Rallis
A headshot of Matt Rallis
Matt Rallis
A childhood photo of Mike, Matt, and their younger with their arms around each other

Mike

When he couldn’t play football, it became real. I always knew my brother, Matt, had CF, and I knew what that meant — in theory. But in reality, he looked just like me and my younger brother. Yes, he had to take lots of medication and do daily treatments to manage his health, but he never complained or made a big deal out of it. We would hang out while he was doing his nebulizer treatments and play video games or watch wrestling and football — we were obsessed. But when an enlarged spleen forced him to sit out his junior year of high school football, his cystic fibrosis was no longer just a theory. It was real.

We had been dreaming of playing football for our school, Edina High, since we were young.  Our neighbor — the quarterback of the team (and a celebrity in our mind) — even autographed a football for us. And suddenly, that dream we both so coveted had been taken from him. I was devastated for Matt, but true to form, he never complained. He stayed involved with the team, worked to reduce the size of his spleen, and would go on to become the Edina Hornets starting quarterback his senior year (with a little extra protection for his midsection). He showed perseverance and resilience while demonstrating that there was actually more to life than sports — something he would have to teach me again later in life.

Matt

Growing up with cystic fibrosis, I was always aware that I was different. How could I not be? The hours of daily nebulizer treatments, the hundreds of pills, and all the coughing were clear signs that I was not like other kids, including my younger brothers. At the same time, I never consciously thought much about those differences. Instead, my attention was seized by all we had in common — playing sports and video games, writing stories, and making art projects.

This idea that despite being different I was just like any other kid is largely attributed to the outstanding job my parents did raising my brothers and me. They empowered me not only to face the unenviable battle with CF head on, but they also let me know that it wouldn’t stop me from living a phenomenal life full of laughter, joy, and love — just like my brothers. Was that battle with CF a struggle at times? Definitely. Did I feel like I couldn’t do it? Never. I was taught my mission was to “take care of business” with this disease — precisely so it would never stand in the way of me enjoying life to the fullest possible extent. I have carried that approach with me from childhood, and to this day, my life with CF has exceeded all my wildest dreams.

Mike

Fast forward 14 years, and both Matt and I have been done playing football for years. But I have replaced it with a new obsession — professionally wrestling in the WWE. Matt and I had just moved in together when the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns were enforced. There wasn’t any wrestling, so we found ourselves in our Orlando apartment with lots of free time on our hands. There is only so much Netflix streaming you can do, so Matt tried something else.

He introduced me to the world of philosophy and spirituality. For some reason, Matt was much more well-versed in this world than I was. Maybe it was because he was forced to look past football and wrestling, or maybe because from a young age, CF made him confront life’s big questions.
 

He showed me different styles of thinking, theorizing, analyzing, and — ultimately — living. We watched shows, listened to podcasts and lectures, and did something I hadn’t attempted in many years — read books.

I was immediately enamored. What was this world I had been missing out on for so many years? I read books written by philosophers, psychologists, gurus, and physicists. I learned about the human condition, the physical universe, the lateralization of the brain hemispheres (my personal favorite), and — perhaps most importantly — moral philosophy. Specifically, I was introduced to theories of philanthropy. A philosopher and neuroscientist named Sam Harris convinced me that not only was it my duty to give back, but I needed to create a system that was not subject to my whimsical human nature. I immediately sprang into action.

Matt

Cystic fibrosis has taught me countless truths about this life. However, as the years roll by, I realize just how little I truly know and how much more I have to learn. There is wisdom and knowledge all around us if we are receptive to it. While CF is one of those things that can impart lessons, there is perhaps no better way to learn and grow than from each other. The people closest to us are often in a position to make the biggest impact on us.

That is what living with my brother Mike did for me.

He will tell you that how I handle my journey with CF has changed the way he lives his life. And he absolutely means it. But there can be no doubt that the way he has responded to my CF has also had a profound influence on me.
 

I have never once felt pity from him, yet I feel completely supported and loved. He doesn’t treat me like I need special assistance because I have a disease, yet when I do need help (as we all do) he is the first in line with no questions asked. He even supports me beyond our everyday lives by giving an incredibly generous amount of money to the CF Foundation every single month as a member of the 65 Roses Club. He is selfless, deeply thoughtful, and aware of the power that a single individual can carry. 

I have never seen myself as a victim of CF, and I consider myself quite resilient. However, watching Mike voluntarily take on a fight that is not his own feels akin to a mythical tale of superhuman feats. Except what Mike does is not superhuman, but rather he has revealed that in discovering our humanity, we find that being human is super.

Mike

Matt has helped me in numerous ways over the years. Among other things, he took me under his wing when our high school football careers overlapped, counseled me through frustrations in professional wrestling, and — most importantly — showed me that there’s a lot more to life than those things. He helped me cultivate a more well-rounded picture of health, well-being, and life, and helped me find the most fulfilling activity in which I’ve ever partaken — giving back to the CF community.

Interested in sharing your story? The CF Community Blog wants to hear from you.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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A headshot of Mike Rallis

Mike is the younger brother of Matt, who was born with cystic fibrosis. Mike has been both a team captain on the University of Minnesota Football team and a professional wrestler with WWE for 10 years. Along with Matt, Mike launched The Rallis Regimen, a health and wellness company focused on providing training programs as part of a well-rounded picture of health. Through the influence of Matt, Mike believes the best way to give back is through systematized regular giving, which is why he is a member of the 65 Roses Club. You can find Mike on Instagram, X, and his website.

A headshot of Matt Rallis

Matt is an adult with cystic fibrosis. He is a Minnesota native who graduated from the University of St. Thomas. He runs an online fitness business, The Rallis Regimen, with his brother Mike. He enjoys being in nature, reading, and writing. You can find Matt on Instagram, X, and his website.

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