Matthew's Story

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CANCER RECURRENCE

JUNE 1996 TO OCTOBER 1996

But ultimately, in June of 1996, six months before a defined cure, the unthinkable happened; Matthew had another liver tumor. His surgery was done in late June but it was very difficult and they weren’t sure if they got it all. Again, chemotherapy treatments began, this time with different chemicals and combinations. Matthew had been without his Port for two years, but now they inserted a new one.

Most of the treatments were administered as an outpatient but for some of them, he had to be hospitalized. Some of the chemicals were so hard on his blood that he needed platelet and/or red blood cell transfusions between most treatments. He also usually had to have neupogen shots each day for about two weeks between treatments. Neupogen stimulates the bone marrow to recover more quickly in producing new white blood cells. Lynn had a very good friend who offered to come to their house and do the shots. I also had a friend who did his shots when they came to Stromsburg most weekends.

Each time, the nurse and Lynn would patiently wait for Matthew to prepare himself mentally for the shot. When he was finally ready, he would grab his mom and they would both yell as loud as they could, "Combine, combine, combine, combine." I think this originated from Lynn suggesting that he think of something good and he had recently had the exciting experience of riding the combine with our friends who are farmers.

Although Matthew was cooperative most of the time, sometimes he rebelled. One day he was especially angry and he used his new word, "damn." After Lynn washed his mouth out with soap, things calmed down, and he was back on her lap, he reasonably said, "You know, when I said that, I was talking about what beavers build." "Yeah, right," replied Mom.

 

Friends and Family

What would we have done without friends all of these four years? Thank heaven, we didn’t need to find out. More than once, my sister and close friends allowed me to rant, rave, and cry. They helped me hold onto sanity and hope. My administrators at school very graciously allowed me to miss many days of work.

Throughout the summer of 1996, we received support from friends. Not only did they visit with Matthew but some of them entertained him at their lake cabins. They helped him fish and taught him to tell good fish stories about how many, how long, and how heavy the fish were that he caught. One friend has a pet bass that would eat grasshoppers and minnows out of Matthew’s hand. Another friend always made sure I had interesting programs on the computer and she took Matthew on visits to the fire hall, the play ground, and to see the horses. Others took the time to visit and enjoy Grandpa’s train with Matthew.

One young man helped Matthew drive a skid loader and another friend enlisted his help painting a house. Actually, it was a garage but Matthew did wield the paintbrush for about an hour.

Lynn’s volleyball team sponsored a volleyball benefit for Matthew. The money that it raised helped Lynn and Dave with the extra expenses that came up every time Matthew had to be in Omaha. In September, a trucker friend let Matthew inspect his big truck and even gave him a ride.

Matthew’s fascination with construction was encouraged when the street past his house was closed off and underwent resurfacing for several months. He became friends with the work crews and when they moved on to other jobs, they always told him where they would be. Almost daily, his parents or grandparents sat with Matthew for hours at construction sites.

My sister, niece, and brother-in-law always seemed to sense the best time to visit Matthew in the hospital. Just when we were at out wit’s end, trying to distract him from being hungry and thirsty, after waiting all day for some test or other, they would arrive like the U.S. Cavalry. One time when they arrived about 3:30 in the afternoon, Matthew had Lynn trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey! Out of desperation, after entertaining Matthew in the hospital all day waiting for a routine test, Lynn had allowed him to tie her up with a whole roll of hospital tape. It was one of many times that Matthew was off of food and water from bedtime the night before until late in the afternoon. Such things were inevitable, as surgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists, and equipment had to be scheduled and quite often there were emergencies that meant delays. Non-emergency procedures like Matthew’s, originally scheduled for late morning, were delayed until late afternoon. It happened several times.

My nephew’s wife also saved the day more than once. She and Matthew had an hilarious episode one day throwing some obnoxious toy called "Gak" all around Matthew’s hospital restroom. Another day, she put so much expression into reading a book to Matthew that the cleaning lady slowed down to hear the end of the book!

Due to neupogen shots, it was difficult to schedule visits to Grandma Goering’s. But when it was possible to go, Matthew had special friends there. Lynn and Dave’s friends visited many times when Matthew was in the hospital. Lynn’s boss and friend and her family also visited and loaned Matthew lots of toys and books. In October, a good friend of mine happened to have a birthday during one of Matthew’s longest hospital stay. She shared her day, bringing streamers and other birthday decorations to Matthew’s hospital room and we celebrated with a birthday ice cream pizza.

As the weeks went by, it became obvious that none of the chemicals could completely destroy the cancer. Controlling the growth was the best the oncologists could promise. Liver transplant, the dreaded "last resort" began to look like the only option.

 

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