My life had changed. In the winter of 2010 I was attending Webster University working on my second Bachelors degree. Life was a little complicated for me then. I had gone back to school and basically reverted to being a college kid again. I was still working freelance and contract design jobs if and when I could get them, but my main pay check came from being the night time kitchen manager at a bar. My schedule was a little nuts. School during the day – work at night.
It was a particularly cold and overcast February day when, while sitting in a three hour Film Studies lecture class I got four missed calls from my dad. This never happened. Dad calls, leaves a message, and, when I can, I call him back – that was the routine. Something was wrong, I knew it – I just had a feeling. Class ended a little before 4 o’clock, and on the way to my car I called him back. I’ll never forget it. I was on the stairs walking down past Webster’s library. It was cold, I remember seeing my thick, heavy breath as I was hustling to get to my car in the garage. I had to work in about an hour. I called – he answered.
“Hey Pop – what’s up? Everything okay?”
“Hey Matt. No, it’s not. Mom’s in the hospital and you need to get here. Now.” He was upset. His voice cracked when he talked. I should note that my dad is an intensive care physician. He sees the really bad stuff everyday, all day long. He really doesn’t get upset – his voice doesn’t crack.
He gave me the details and quickly made my way to my car. I called work, tried to explain the situation, apologized and said I wouldn’t make it in, and headed to the hospital.
My mom had been having bad headaches for a while – maybe six weeks. Dad had sent her to the family practice doctor and she was checked for sinus infections. Antibiotics were prescribed. The headaches didn’t go away. Apparently that February morning she was very dizzy and was having trouble seeing. Dad rushed her in and they did more tests. And x-rays. And scans. And that’s when they found the brain tumors. And then something in her lungs. Biopsy showed malignant tumors.
Dad saw the scans. He looked at scans like these all the time. And he knew how it would end. A few months. Six maybe.
My life had changed. Agressive treatment. Chemo. Schedules. Cumadin. Steriods. Ensure. Vomitting. Portacath. Prescriptions. Bald head. Pretty scarves. Puffy cheeks. Weak bones. Back surgery. A cane. A walker. More prescriptions. More treatment.
“I’m not dying yet,” she said. She fought. Hard. So hard. And with a resilience I had never seen. No complaints. No questioning God or asking “why me?” She just kept fighting. Four months. Six. A year. My mom fought her cancer for twenty months. But the cancer was stronger. In November 2011, my beautiful mother lost her fight.
My life changed again. She was gone. My champion. The strongest, funniest, most caring person I’d ever met. My sounding board, my shoulder to cry on. I was a momma’s boy – I still am. And man, it still hurts. At mom’s funeral, a cousin who’d lost his mother said “You’ll never get over this. It will always hurt. But you learn to deal with it to make it through the days. Remember the good stuff.”
I know this is personal and may seem simplified. I could write novels about my mom. She was the best.
But I needed to give a little context to answer the question: Why do I do this? Why do I work with Blackout Melanoma? Why do I put in the time and effort? Why work an extra 15 plus hours a week? Give up the occasional weekend? Why do I care?
Just a bit more context…
I grew up with Ryan Shapiro. His neighborhood was right across the street from mine since fifth grade. I knew the Shapiro family – I loved them like family. And through Kyle (Ryan’s youngest brother) I had met Beca and came to know about her struggle with melanoma. Beca passed a few months before my mom. I knew how hard the fight was. I had gladly helped with some graphics for the Beca’s 5k Race that summer in 2011 and I had met Aneta. Last fall Ryan and Rick asked me to help with a website for the melanoma foundation Beca had started. I happily agreed. A few month’s later I was elected to the board and began working hard to help educate, advocate, and support people struggling with melanoma. It has been a lot of work to get us where we are today. But I think it’s been worth it. Melanoma’s not the same cancer that took my mom. Her’s was a different battle in the same war. I was glad to help fight.
So, why do I do this?
Because of Beca. Because of Aneta. Because of the Shapiro family. Because I’m helping people and moving towards a goal of one day finding a cure for cancer – all cancer. Because hopefully my efforts with Blackout Melanoma can someday help someone avoid a similar struggle. Because I have a wide skill set and because I’m driven and I can help.
I do it for my family. I selfishly do it for my heart and my soul.
But mostly, I do this because I think my mom would be proud of me.
Please help Blackout Melanoma change the lives of other people. Donate, volunteer, advise, or come to an event. Any and all support is very much appreciated.
– Matt Taylor
Board Member, Marketing Committee Chair, Patty’s son