Matt & Becky's Cancer Catch-Up

In January of this year, during his first post-surgical check-up, Matt and I learned that his cancer had returned for the third time. We found out that not only had it come back in the site of origin, but had spread to a lymph node in his back and the mediastinum in his chest. Matt is currently fighting stage 4 testicular cancer.

He started chemotherapy immediately, receiving treatments Monday through Friday, 7 hours a day, with two weeks off in between. He had a port placed to ease the infusion of intense chemotherapy drugs into his system; but two weeks into treatment, there was a problem.

Matt's port stopped returning, meaning that it was unusable. The surgeon who placed it went back in to clean, repair and resuture the site, but found that the interior surrounding the port was capturing fluid. The doctor had to switch the port to the other side of Matt's chest, a move that seemed to be the solution.

However, two days after Matt's stitches were removed from the first site, another - and much more serious - issue arose... His surgical incision broke open.

Because he had an open wound and chemo lowers white blood cell counts, his treatment was delayed for a week. To prevent infection, he was placed immediately on antibiotics through his port. A home health nurse was assigned to come to our apartment to help run the antibiotic and change Matt's dressing. But after a couple days, the surgeon decided to switch him to oral antibiotics.

This seemed much easier, as I was able to pack and dress Matt's wound and we no longer needed the home health care. That is, until yet another problem came about.

Matt had an allergic reaction to the oral antibiotic and we had to rush him to the ER. Hives had broken out all over his body, he had numbness in his jaw and throat, his heart rate was elevated, he had turned beet red and his whole body was swelling. They treated him and prescribed two medications, and his oncologist switched him to another antibiotic.

The wound was healing slowly but surely, so he was cleared for his third week of treatment. And after that was finished, yet another problem arose. Matt started getting severe swelling in his lower jaw and neck, along with white spots in his mouth and throat. He was placed on another antibiotic for thrush. However, when the antibiotic was finished, the swelling didn't go down. So we went to the emergency room, just to make sure it wasn't anything serious.

As it turned out, we learned from a CT scan of his neck, Matt had developed a blood clot in his internal jugular vein. He was kept in the ICU on a heparin drip and sent home with oral blood thinners the next day...

But the swelling persisted. And then, Matt's upper arm started getting hot and he was getting easily confused. He had also developed an unusual cough. So it was back to the emergency room. This time, they did a chest x-ray - And found that he had not one, but two clots. The second was a pulmonary embolism. So Matt was admitted and stayed on heparin for three days. This time, they sent him home with a subcutaneous injection of blood thinners, which he will have to take for a minimum of six months. We don't like to think about what would have happened had he not been so diligent about the warning signs.

During his stay, he was able to meet with his oncologist, who cleared him to return to chemo the following week.

So Matt is currently in his last scheduled week of treatment. Two weeks following, he will get scans and bloodwork to see how the disease has been affected by the 4 weeks' worth of drugs.

Though his numbers are looking better and he may not need more chemotherapy at the moment, it's still unclear whether Matt will need to undergo more surgery/surgeries, and there's always the possibility of more chemo later on. When he was first diagnosed back in 2011, he needed additional chemo and a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, a surgery that required dozens of doctors and took eight hours, to remove the affected lymph nodes. He spent 13 days in the hospital recovering from it. This is the same surgery they will have to perform if his scans aren't clean.

What is very clear is that Matt will not be able to work for quite some time. He has been unable to work since his surgery last year. Currently, the weeks between treatments leave him drained, exhausted, and physically ill. Beyond that, he cannot spend an extended amount of time with the public, due to his low white blood cell count. He is working on getting disability, but we've been told the process can take up to four months.

We are going to be a one-income family for the foreseeable future. And to add to that stress, I will be attending a six-month full-time program beginning at the end of April. This may seem like terrible timing, but this schooling will allow me to nearly double my hours and my salary. It is a much-needed strain for us, since it's going to help our household get into a better financial position. The downside is that this will be a one-hour commute each way, and requires me to lose hours from my work schedule.

The GoFundMe campaign that we ran last year was to help get us through Matt's surgery and his recovery, and it absolutely did. For that we are extremely grateful. Unfortunately, getting a third diagnosis of cancer after the campaign ended was, needless to say, unexpected.

And meanwhile, more unexpected things happened. The driver's side door handle of our car broke on both the outside and inside (and we only have the one vehicle). All of the supplies needed to change and dress Matt's wound are out-of-pocket expenses. Our little cat has reached maturity, is now spraying all over the apartment, and needs to be fixed.

Matt and I have also been sharing a phone, since we have been unable to afford a second one. With the reactions, infections, embolisms, and the changes in his health from day to day, it's concerning to leave him at home with no ability to call for help, should he need it. I have my phone through Google, and the monthly payments are low, but we need to be able to purchase the phone in order to start Matt's plan.

All these things, along with the fact that we're trying to pay our rent, internet, student loans, private loans, the gas to get to and from Sandusky daily (sometimes twice a day), medical and dental bills, and groceries (and the chemo changes Matt's appetite and taste almost daily), along with supplies I'll need for school, are making for an extremely difficult time on one income. What makes the situation even harder is not knowing when this will end.

Unlike most people, we don't have a line of credit available for times like these. And because of our extremely high past medical bills from Matt's first bout with cancer, our credit has been destroyed, leaving us without this option.

We can use all the help we can get, and appreciate anything you, our family and our friends, can do. We are setting our goal fairly high, to account for the amount we have fallen behind since treatment started, and to plan for the future while I am in school. This is the very most we would need for our expenses, both expected and unexpected. Anything beyond our goal would be put towards a vacation that the two of us can take to relax and unwind after all of this is over. We'd love to travel the country and spend some quality time with all the friends and family who have been such great support to us.

Thank you all in advance for helping us through this (financially and emotionally) difficult time!
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Becky Heyman 
Monroeville, OH
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