Matt's Story

In May of 2003, two weeks before my high school graduation, I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare children’s cancer.   I had a tumor in my femur, just above my right knee.  I ended up being able to graduate with a friend wheeling me through in my wheelchair to get my diploma. I immediately started a rigorous four months of inpatient chemotherapy 200 miles from home. I then had to go to Omaha, NE to have surgery to remove 12” of my femur and my knee.  It was replaced with a custom titanium knee and titanium rod from my hip to my shin.  After only a few months of therapy and a lot of determination I amazed my medical team and was able to walk with only a slight limp, not noticeable to those who don’t know I have prosthesis. After a short break, I began chemotherapy again, this time for another four months. The high dosage chemotherapy I was on was so toxic that after a few hours of chemotherapy I would spend the rest of the day getting “rescue” drugs to save my organs and the rest of my body.

After almost a year of treatment, I enrolled in Dawson Community College where I graduated two years later with two Associates Degrees.  During this time, I had CT’s of my chest, leg X-rays, blood work and follow up visits to my pediatric oncologist every three months.

In August, 2006 a CT scan revealed a small nodule and we found out that my cancer had metastasized to my lungs.  I had surgery to remove the lung tumor in Minneapolis, MN.  I decided to make a change and moved to Bozeman to begin school at Montana State University where I hoped to get my graphic design degree.  In May, 2007 I had to drop out of school two weeks before finals, as another lung tumor appeared and we were sent to Minneapolis for another lung surgery to remove the cancer.  I then had to start high dose chemotherapy again, only this time it was a new protocol of drugs. I was hospitalized to receive chemo five days a month in Billings, MT. I had three more major lung surgeries in between my chemo sessions. July 4, 2008 was the end of chemo in billings.

Our first annual Fishin’ for the Cure tournament was held on July 12th 2008 to raise money for childhood cancer research.  The tournament was a good success for only a couple months preparation.  After the tournament I was hospitalized for high fever and blood transfusion. In August 2008 I was emitted to the hospital in billings for experiencing shoulder pain and inflammation of the area around the heart.  In September I proposed to the love of my life Katie. In November I was able to go elk hunting a lot of fun, even though the great hunter came up empty handed. Still experiencing a lot of pain I had fluid removed by needle aspiration around the heart and in chest cavity. Test results came back positive for osteosarcoma cells in the fluid. Despite the results we still went on a well needed vacation to Mexico.  Once back home it was right back at it, I had more test and scan done. Results showed questionable masses in the lung and heart area, so we drove to Minnesota.  Once there I went under for surgery one more time, draining out fluid and removal of mass on diaphragm. I was in the hospital in Minnesota for my birthday second year in a row.  Doctors told me there that there was nothing more they could do and the surgeon said he wouldn’t operate on me anymore. The doctors said they had done all the protocols that there were for osteosarcoma.  It was like they gave me the death sentence.  Only problem with that is that I wasn’t ready to give up- to lay down and die.

Seeking a second opinion I flew to Huston.  The doctor there recommended that I receive the chemo I was first on since I had good results. So the plan was to place a catheter in the tumor sack around the heart and inject the chemo directly to the area, this had only been done a couple of times before, but I was pushing boundaries.  The doctor injected the chemo within seconds my legs went numb as it was racing up my body within a minute I was completely paralyzed and my vision was starting to go. I screamed at him to take it out, he did and after an hour or so I gained control over my body again.  This was by far the scariest moment for me I truly thought I was going to die right there.  He wanted that chemo to stay in there for four hours I made it last two minutes.  Now he wanted me to go back home and continue to receive the same chemo but for it to be normally injected until either my heart or hearing shows loss of function. In March 2009, after four more chemo treatments my hearing showed loss so I was done with that. 

  I was supposed to go to Houston to see how things were going but was hospitalized for fever and chills so trip was cancelled and rescheduled for middle of April 2009.  The scans there showed a tumor the size of a tennis ball on my ribcage. A surgeon in Houston agreed to remove it. This was what I call the cookie cutter surgery were he just removed the ribs area and all leaving a nice hole in my back under my shoulder blade.  On May 30th 2009, we held the 2nd annual Fishin' for the Cure at Fort Peck, what a blast! During this time I was on an oral chemo which was nice not having to be in the hospital for treatment. In October 2009 my check up in Houston showed signs of progression of disease with multiple tumors in the left lung. I stayed in Houston for one month receiving intense radiation along with a new oral chemo. I was sent home on steroids for swelling. On November 23, 2009 I was hospitalized for an unbearable pain in my legs which we finally learned was from steroid withdrawals. The doctor wanted me to start these shots once a week with another chemo. Scans were taken in Bozeman and sent to Houston. I had been having a hard time breathing and coughing up a lot of blood. On December 22nd, we learned from my doctor in Houston that there was a large new tumor in my lung. Dr. Pete described my osteosarcoma as chemo resistant and radiation resistant, and inoperable. There are no new chemo’s to try, no more options.  At this point I’ve become really tired of all this and having no results so I took matters into my own hands and found a drug that is not yet approved by the FDA for human use, but has shown great results in dogs with osteosarcoma. Trying to enjoy every minute of my life we planned the third annual Fishin’ for the Cure.

The new drugs shrank his tumors, but made him so sick it was a battle to keep weight on. However, 2010’s tournament was a success. Matt caught the winning walleye measuring 31 ½ inches. It was the catch of his life, and later that same summer Matt earned his wings surrounded by his loved ones.

 He fought the good fight, he finished the race, and kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

As his family we promised Matt we would keep Fishin’ for the Cure going to hopefully prevent other children from the battle Matt had to fight.

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