By Alan Gionet
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – That’s the million dollar question,” said Matt Payne about the reason behind his lung cancer. He’d get up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning and work out lifting weights. He was a strong guy. He took care of himself. He didn’t smoke. Maybe there was radon somewhere, there is a virus possibly associated with lung cancer. But no search for a reason has found anything. It just hit him.
“Some days I take the approach, if you can’t see it, it’s not happening,” he told me. He works on. Going to work is a small blessing. Matt won’t stop in spite of the cancer that’s spread to his liver and bones and brain.
“You can’t let it define you,” he said.
Tuesday morning we gave Matt a little support in a message on air. It’s part of my No Shave November effort. We’re trying to let people like Matt know we’re behind him. He’s a tough customer for cancer. He’s methodical in his approach and keeps going after it. Matt loves his family most and wants to protect them.
“I can’t imagine going through all of this without them.”
Things weren’t feeling right in the later part of summer last year. He would hurt a little more in his ribcage while lifting. He developed a dry cough, then began to lose his voice. That was the most worrisome. He talked with his wife Alyssa and went to get a chest x-ray. There were problems. His lungs were cloudy. A CT scan showed things were even worse. Cancer was in his liver, bones and brain.
“It was pretty hard,” said Matt. It’s a small cell cancer and many of the latest developments seem to be for large cell. Other treatments haven’t fit either.
“Ever since I was diagnosed, I’ve been really open,” he said. He hasn’t hid his cancer as cancer hides within him. He’s been working four and a half days a week, doing chemo and radiation. “I’ve been able to be fairly active.”
He credits his employer with being great. When he was first diagnosed he worked for Citywide Banks. They have been acquired by Heartland Financial USA and the support has continued.
“I got blessed there… so I can feel like a normal member of society,” said Matt. “I’d like to just feel like a normal adult again.”
And a normal dad. Six year old Hudson and four year old Aubree have had to learn to deal with their father’s cancer too.
“They’ve become so used to going to the hospital,” said Matt. He and his wife Alyssa took the kids to Disneyland for a time away from cancer. Hudson loves sports, Aubree loves dancing. “Alyssa, Hudson and Aubree have been huge from an emotional point of view as just seeing their faces every day reminds me what I’m fighting for,” Matt related. “My wife has been my rock as she’s been to the vast majority of my treatments, appointments… and continues to pick up the slack from me as a parent while I deal with periodic side effects from treatment.”
He’s still heading to work and somehow working in radiation and getting the heavy anti-cancer drug, taxol to fight hard. It’s partially effective, but not totally.
Work is a salve to the heavy weight of cancer.
“It keeps it stowed further in the back of my mind.”
The biggest concern is the cancer in his liver. “Right now, they’re trying to figure it out,” said Matt. He’s thankful for his oncologist, Dr. Ross Camidge at CU Cancer Center. He talks about how Dr. Camidge is constantly trying to chart a path to save him.
“It’s been a big boost mentally, so you’re not sitting in the dark.”
Somewhere he hopes for a path out. Meantime, he’ll keep working and working to beat cancer. We’re glad to let you know Matt, we’re behind you.
Here’s a link to Alan Gionet’s No Shave November page as he raises money to fight cancer: no-shave.org/member/agionet