"For us, it started out like any other Saturday morning. We had breakfast and then Matt was off to get his eyes checked as we were sure that was what was causing his headaches. Not long after he arrived at the Dr’s office he sent a text “They want me to get an MRI”. Within a few hours we heard the words that would change our lives forever. “A very large mass on the right front lobe of your brain. It is cancer.” He was 20 years old. By Sunday afternoon, 24 hours later, the tennis ball size tumor had been removed, or at least 90% of it. Matty bounced back like a true warrior despite major pain and swelling and on Thursday afternoon we walked out of the hospital, confident that the worst was behind us.
Within a few weeks the swelling was so bad that they had to put in a VP shunt. Within about a month they removed the shunt as it had caused massive infection. He was now experiencing grand mal seizures, loss of memory and functionality. Shortly after that he was fired from his job and we added major anxiety and depression to our list of issues. Basically, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. He continued to focus on school and within just over a year he graduated top of his class at ITT Tech. It was truly a highlight of his life. After 6 weeks of radiation, 11 months of chemo and 5 stays in the hospital we finally heard the words “no evidence of tumor” and it looked like we were finally getting a break!
With his confidence at an all-time high he accepted a job in San Francisco, California and we moved him out there. There were many struggles during the 18 months he was there. He had just gotten his dream job working for Google when we realized the infection had never really gone away and two more surgeries would be required. The first was to remove the infected brain plate and start him on aggressive antibiotics. Of course, during that time the cancer returned and by the time they were able to replace the brain plate the tumor had grown to the size of a fist. It was stage 4 and angry. The doctor was so aggressive in the recession of the tumor for the fifth and final surgery that Matty lost half of his eyesight in both eyes, the use of his entire left side, his short term memory and some of his cognitive skills. We managed to get him home to Valley Center, Kansas after an extensive stay in the hospital and quickly signed up for a clinical trial through Mayo Clinic. But to no avail.
Just days after his 24th birthday, we were told there was nothing more they could do. Matty wanted to go home and party with his family and friends and that is just what we did. For the 3 weeks and 3 days he was with us we opened our home to anyone, anytime. Friends and family came from all over the country to spend time with him, reminisce about the good times and embrace the present, soaking in every moment with him. It was such a difficult time filled with tears, laughter, heartbreak, stress and always love. Lots of love. Matthew came into this world on a Sunday morning at 8:53am as a content happy baby boy and left on a Sunday morning at 8:35am as a peaceful young man ready to let go of this life and seek out new adventures.
During his entire fight Matthew displayed a kindness and gentleness that amazed us all. He always thanked everyone for their assistance and never lost his patience, despite severe pain at times. He was constantly trying to help people feel comfortable with his cancer, with a ready quip or comeback to make them laugh. Often times when a nurse finally arrived with pain meds to help with a horrible headache he would purpose marriage and make them know he appreciated their efforts. His final effort to help others was to donate his body to science. It was his hope that somehow he just might help find a cure so others would not have to endure what he did. We intend to continue his legacy by contributing to and becoming involved in all of the various organizations focused on brain tumor research.
Our wish is for everyone to enjoy today, whatever it brings, make the most of it. Our dear Matthew is gone in body but he lives on in our hearts and our memories. We are all better people for having shared in his journey and experienced first hand his determination and courage while never losing his sense of humor. Matthew is our hero and we just hope that we can make him as proud of us as we are of him! "
- Team Matty (Apr 29, 2014)