I am honored to write on behalf of Matt and Hope and also conflicted because I know that I won't be able to do their incredible story justice.
I am Hope's twin sister, Hollie - If you know Matt and Hope like I do, you know how much they give of themselves to their community, the children they work with, their friends and their families.
They bless those around them with unfailing optimism and joy while asking for nothing in return. Their belief in the value of helping others has been their motivation. My husband Tyler and I have been fortunate enough to share life and many adventures with them.
To Macau With Love:
About 4 years ago Matt and Hope told us that they were considering leaving their teaching positions in Oklahoma to move (far) away to teach in a school in Taipa, Macau (think China) at a school dedicated to community outreach and spiritual empowerment.
While we missed them desperately, and I slowly adjusted to days gone by without talking to hope (15 hour time difference!) we were excited for the adventure they were embarking on and quickly saw their happiness in being there. Now, seeing all they have accomplished in 3 1/2 years, we can think of nothing better suited to them.
During their time in Macau, they grew stronger in their faith and partnership. They spent most of their time working and serving together, except when they were teaching their individual classes, tutoring, or when Matt was coaching soccer. They were a source of constant support and encouragement to each other .
Our House Is Your House:
While in Macau, their home was a revolving door for children; tutoring, junior youth groups, devotionals, service projects and anything else that was needed.
Your children are our children:
To hear them talk about “their” kids, you would think they were their own children. They were determined to make a forever difference in their students’ lives and we believe they have.
Hope and I would often talk about the students she and Matt taught - they were their sole reason for giving more than their work demanded; more than anyone would ask, and more than could ever be expected. I am often in awe of their spirit of serving with joyful hearts.
A routine medical exam on November 7th brought news to Hope and Matt that suddenly and unexpectedly changed their lives as they knew them.
They were told that a large tumor was discovered in Matt’s abdomen and the recommendation from the doctors in Hong Kong was for him to return to the United States as soon as possible to remove it.
They had a couple of days to say their goodbyes to the many people who know and love them well. When they announced to the children at school that they had to leave temporarily, the school was filled with teary eyes and heavy hearts. While devastated, there was hope that they would be returning as soon as possible. Matt and Hope were hopeful too. This was their dream - this was their home.
From Macau to Mayo:
On November 12th, Hope and Matt boarded a plane to return to the United States. They left with very little of their belongings. They each had a bag with their bare essentials because they were holding onto the hope that they would be coming back in a month or two. Not only did they leave their things behind, they also had to leave their beloved dog Leo with a friend (rescued from a dog park where he was left).
Their first appointment at Mayo Clinic was less than a week after they landed in Minnesota. They were told that the tumor needed to be removed right away and since there was no available surgeon at Mayo, the surgery needed to be performed in Boston at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
From Mayo to Boston (for Christmas):
Due to the size and type of tumor confirmed at Mayo Clinic, Matt went in for a surgery on December 18th. The rest of us prayed, read, and walked around the hospital, but mostly we waited for good news. We knew that he was in the incredibly competent and careful hands of Dr. Gerard Doherty. We were filled with conflicting feelings of worry, apprehension and hope.
(Right before surgery!)
Dr. Doherty came out about 5 hours later and told us that surgery had gone far better than expected; all of the tumor was removed and no other organs needed to be taken out. For the next several days Matt had to be closely monitored as the risks of complications/ infections were high following a complex prodedure such as this. Slowly (or so it seemed, but it actually happened surprisingly quickly), Matt began to regain his strength and within days he was up and about in the hospital. Five days after the operation, he was released. We spent the next 10 days of Matt’s recovery in Boston until he was cleared to return home.
From Boston to Chemotherapy (Healing Treatment):
After reviewing the pathology report from the surgery in Boston along with the latest CT scan, Hope and Matt received news on January 10th that no one ever wants to hear. They were told that they had confirmed that Matt has a very rare cancer called Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma (ACC) that has metastasized into both of his lungs. They call it Stage 4 cancer.
Because the tumors in the lungs were growing so rapidly, the oncology doctor advised that Matt needed to start chemotherapy the following Monday, January 15th. He explained the side effects of all the chemo drugs and included the kinds of statistics that only a doctor who delivers bad news on a regular basis could say so nonchalantly. He also said that the regimen will be 21 day rounds for as long as it takes to make any changes to the tumors. Healing will be Matt's full-time job.
This chemotherapy regimen means that there is no way for either Hope or Matt to work - which means they will have no income. All of their time will be spent either in chemo or recovering from chemo for the foreseeable future. This reality is just now beginning to sink in for them - especially considering most of their time up until this point has consisted almost entirely of serving in their community or traveling to unknown places together.
Matt just finished his first round of chemo. The doctors will do another CT scan and then start round number two on February 5th. This will continue indefinitely. We will continue to believe that Matt’s body is well enough to handle the strong chemo medication and that the tumors will go away completely.
Faith, Hope and Love:
To watch Hope and Matt as they process their new normal has been heart-wrenching. To witness the grace, steadfastness and faith with which they are handling their circumstances is inspirational.
Hope and Matt are boldly facing what is ahead; inspiring and calling any who are near them to be filled with hope, not fear and to live extraordinary lives. They are a perfect example of why God created marriage, they are not alone. They have the love, prayers, and the comfort of family and friends all throughout the world.
Hope and Matt had to be convinced to set this account up. But, as many people have asked how they can be of help, we have put together this site for those who would like to offer kind words of encouragement or donate to help with medical costs, housing, etc. These are the spiritual and practical ways we can help in showing them how much they are cherised and loved.
Sowing and Reaping:
Matt and Hope have given of their time, finances, energy, hospitality, etc. to many people. They have been generous with their lives, expecting nothing in return. At this time, I am asking for them because they wouldn’t do this for themselves.
Our first request is always prayer for Matt’s healing. If you would like to also help them with a donation, it will be used to provide them with just what they need during this next uncertain period of unemployment.
Please join with me and my husband, Tyler and my family in showing Hope and Matt what they mean to us, whether in word or in donation. Let’s lighten their load as they navigate the toughest days any of us could ever face.
We will keep you updated here and Hope will keep you updated on her Caring Bridges page: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/matt.witt/journal We love them so much and are so thankful that there is always hope!
Hollie, Tyler and family
- Travis Ward
- Emma Dible
- Lisa Drost
Organizer and beneficiary
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