Two days before 18-year old Matt Stevens – a quiet, shy and kind trumpet player – was to deliver his senior speech in front of his fellow brothers at CBHS, he received news that would drastically alter his prepared message. His assigned topic – determination – was a topic that he already knew well, but now that purposefulness took on a much deeper meaning: Matt had just been diagnosed with stage 3a non-seminomas testicular cancer.
Before the diagnosis, Matt had normal adolescent male challenges to overcome. After changing schools four times and battling a bit of social anxiety that comes with a quiet personality and normal life transitions, Matt found his determination and confidence to thrive in high school through the simple act of being kind. It was this kindness that led him to secure a spot as a trumpet player for the CBHS band. Wanting to honor his late grandfather who served as a band director and percussionist in the Navy – Matt took a liking to the trumpet during a short fine arts rotation his freshman year of high school. Noticing his positive attitude and gentle nature, the band director asked Matt to join the CBHS band that year, hoping that his kindness would prove to be contagious among his fellow bandmates and would develop Matt’s confidence at the same time. The band director was right. After four years of being in the band and developing his trumpeting skills, a visibly more confident Matt Stevens– who now happily called his bandmates his friends –proudly accepted a scholarship from the University of Memphis to attend school in the fall and play in the Mighty Sound of the South marching band.
Now two weeks before his high school graduation, Matt should have been looking forward to spending his last summer before college hanging out with his buddies and playing video games. Instead, Matt was faced with reworking a speech to illustrate the new path his life would be taking – one that included chemotherapy, surgery, debilitating fears and an endless supply of strength and determination.
After noticing enlargement and pain in his testicle for over a month, Matt approached his mom and together they went to his pediatrician in April 2017. Unable to provide a specialized diagnosis, the pediatrician sent him on to a urology clinic where they were told that Matt likely had testicular cancer and a recommendation of surgery was made. Although the surgery to remove his diseased testicle was indeed successful, the doctors unfortunately discovered that his testicular cancer had spread into his aorta and lungs during a follow-up CT scan and immediately referred him to Dr. Brad Somer, an oncologist specializing in Genitourinary Cancers, who began an aggressive treatment regimen of combination chemotherapy that very same day.
Not wanting to give in to his fears surrounding the word “cancer”, Matt instead turned again to the word “determination” to get him through this next challenge. “It’s like a test. You prepare yourself, take the test and see what grade you get. What I’m dealing with now is a life test. My strength and abilities to get through a stressful situation while trusting God will all be tested. Many people have called me a trooper. I’m human, but this is my battle and I’m determined to get through this.”
Thankfully, this is not a battle that he has to fight alone. Because of his own determination to thrive in school by pushing past his inherently quiet nature, Matt has developed life-lasting friendships over the years – including new friends that have come along with joining the band – and now has a true and dedicated brotherhood that will cheer him up with a milkshake when he is feeling down, shave their own heads in solidarity ahead of Matt’s impending hair loss, or donate meals and funds to support the growing financial burden of a cancer diagnosis. In fact, the mother of one of his closest friends was diagnosed with colon cancer within weeks of Matt’s own diagnosis – and they come together often to support one another through the pains and fears of cancer treatment.
It is this spirit of comradery that inspired Matt to get involved in the UT/West Institute’s upcoming fundraising event, West FIGHT ON to be held at Shelby Farms on September 16th. “I know first-hand what it is like to have a band of brothers work together to take care of me. I don’t want anyone to have to face the fear of having cancer, but if they do – I want them to have the courage and determination to fight it because they have the right support. My friends and family have always supported me – and now the entire FIGHT ON family is as well. Being a part of an event that brings so many people – and cancer survivors – together for the greater good of providing support for other patients and families, that is what brotherhood and sisterhood is all about.”
You can join Matt and more than 2,000 others from the Mid-South in the fight against cancer by registering for West FIGHT ON. at www.westfighton.org. Whether you cycle, run, walk or simply cheer on participants, you are showing your support for all those lives that have been touched by cancer. FIGHT ON!