A friend of our family wrote an article about me for her blog on UtahRunner.com. It tells my story better than I could say it. Thanks to Lisa VanDyke.
Matt, husband and father of four, got the unexpected news last summer that he had a brain tumor. He had gone to an ENT for issues related to hearing in one ear, and soon found himself in surgery to diagnose and treat the suspected cancer.
Matt had been a runner since he was 26, when some coworkers talked him into competing in a triathlon in Tooele. He trained for the run portion, running up to 3 miles at a time. He describes his first race with a huge smile on his face, "I loved that race because I helped a young girl beat her Dad for the first time. He had told his daughter before it began that he would wait to start the bike and run portion of the triathlon until the last swimmer got out of the pool. He would then work to catch up to and surpass her. I kept him in the pool long enough to give that young girl an edge, and she beat him!" He went on to add, "I also took first place in my age division, and last place overall!"
One thing he learned from that race was that he hated swimming, so he focused on running only events, including many RAGNAR relays as well as half marathons. As I asked him about his favorite races, the ones that came to his mind always had to do with family; "If you are talking just about the course, my favorite is the Top Of Utah Half Marathon. It is beautiful, and mostly downhill, which feels awesome. But the annual Fourth of July 5K our family participates in each year is really the best, because it is such a tradition for us. I also really liked running the Wasatch Back RAGNAR relay with my ten year old son. He jumped in at the last minute as our van was short a runner, and did amazing. I learned a lot about him at that race."
Following Matt's brain surgery, his doctor advised him to get moving as soon as he could. He found inspiration in another patient at the hospital who would walk laps around the top floor all day. As soon as Matt was able to get up, he was doing the same. He was not cleared for running for a couple of months, which (in classic runner fashion) he heeded for about 6 weeks. On his birthday in July, he headed out for his first run since becoming a cancer patient. It felt amazing to be out there once again.
Matt also went through 6 weeks of radiation, where he would ride the train to and from treatment each day, wearing a backpack that reads, "Carl Sucks." (Carl is the name his tumor received soon after it was discovered) There have been highs and lows through the entire process, and Matt committed to keep moving everyday. In the hard days with sleeplessness following his treatments, Matt logged an estimated 50 miles a week in walking or running. His attitude, as well as that of his family, continues to reflect the positive:
"In my mind, I have approached it as a tough part of the trail, something that will teach and challenge me. It has been a great period of growth, and an opportunity to experience many blessings."
The journey of fighting an anoplastic astrocytoma and being a runner has meshed into a spiritual experience for Matt, further connecting him to faith and God. He describes running as time where he finds peace and clarity, something that has been heightened for him throughout his treatment and healing. Thanks for inspiring us to live life to the fullest Matt!
- Ken and Janae Richardson