This is My Life! I Own It!

by Matthew S. NewmanSurvivor, Brain Cancer, Anaplastic AstrocytomasNovember 27, 2019View more posts from Matthew S. Newman

Dear Cancer,

We started our relationship with each other when I was 15 years old. My Grandma Harriet was diagnosed with cancer at 57. I wasn’t old enough to really understand it or digest it. One day she was Grandma Harriet, the next day she wore a cancer turban, the next day she was gone. What I do remember was the pain it caused my family, and especially my mother. The tears, the grief, the anger; it built this hate inside of me for this evil disease. I wish I would have been able to really be there for my mom. I just didn’t understand the realness or magnitude of what was happening at 15 years old.

I would see cancer fairly often as I got older. It wasn’t as close and personal as it was with my Grandmother, but it was prevalent. It seemed every family had some type of relationship with it. In 2010, my father-in-law Larry was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. It was reminiscent of what my family had already been through. Larry was 60 when diagnosed, and he had two major goals. To see all his grandchildren born, and to be around long enough that they would all have memories of him. He was a WARRIOR. He never bitched, he never moaned, he just acted with independence and dignity as this was his life. Larry made it 4 years and passed on July 28, 2014. My wife lost her father, my mother-in-law lost her husband, and my children lost their grandfather. Cancer didn’t care, it did what it went, when it wanted. It played by its own rules and had its own agenda.

In 2013 when Larry was going through chemotherapy, I was diagnosed with Brain Cancer, a Grade 3 Astrocytoma. I had three kids under five, a wife taking care of her father, and now this. I remember lying in bed in the hospital after being diagnosed, and I just started to cry. I started to think about my family, my kids, and started to have retrospective on my life. I was trying to understand why this happened. In the middle of my five-minute pity party, I just started to scream and curse. Strength is not how much we can lift, it’s not the size of our arms; strength is something that’s deep down in our bellies that at the deepest and darkest of times we can grab it and we can own it. I didn’t know I had that in me, but when I found it, I made it mine. This was my journey; cancer was just along for the ride!

I went through surgery, chemo and radiation; the major change in my life came from perspective. I started to see life through a different lens. I started to understand basic things in life that weren’t so basic before my fight with cancer. I was taking lessons and gifts from cancer that I would never give back. They were mine; I was taking them from you, cancer. I started to really understand living in the moment and appreciating the now. My catharsis became writing. I would share my thoughts, perspective change, and appreciating and understanding the fragility of life. I would do this to unburden myself of the anxiety and fear that would sit in my belly as every 3 months I would get MRI’s to see if cancer had grown back.

In 2018, I self-published my book “Starting at the Finish Line.” I wrote it for ME. It made me feel better. It became a catharsis to get things off my chest. I had no expectations anybody but friends and family would read it, and I would put three copies in my safe so when my kids were old enough they could read what really happened. One week later we were #1 in New Releases on Amazon in a variety of categories. I started speaking all over the country on my story, perspective, and the need to have some type of financial plan in place prior to the bad happening. I began doing multiple TedX talks, interviews and more. For the last five years we have done the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia to raise money for charity, and I became an ambassador for Head for the Cure, an amazing brain cancer charitable organization.

I often get asked, with my change in the way I viewed life, the “gifts” that I have received, am I glad this all happened? NO! It was a horrible experience for me and my family, and it is something I will deal with for the rest of my life. I wish it never happened, but rather then complain, I will take from cancer instead of it taking from me. This is MY LIFE! I OWN IT! To all in the cancer community, we are WARRIORS, and we are a family of WARRIORS! Inspiring and listening to our community is a responsibility and obligation I take seriously. Family is always there for each other.

Cancer, we have had a long history with each other. I hope we never meet personally again; I hope we end your existence to harming people and families, and I think you for the gifts you gave me that I will never give back,

Matt Newman

Matt and family at the beach

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