SPOTLIGHT: MATTHEW MYERS

Nakeisha Lyon, Business Manager

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Osteosarcoma: it is more than a belligerent bone tumor that occurs during the period of maturation and rapid growth for a teen turning into an adult. According to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, this cancer is the most common malignant bone cancer in youth, with boys posing the greatest risk of having this illness. Each year approximately 400 children and young people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with this disease.  It affects those, who struggle to fight the illness, mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, one young man would not be fighting alone; in 2010, Matthew Myers would be facing this difficult disease along with his family, friends, and community supporting him every step of the way.

“Well [school] had just got back [in session] from winter break,” Myers recounts, “and I was running with the baseball team. I must have stepped wrong or something because my shin [began] to swell up pretty badly. I went to the doctor the next day and then got an MRI two days after that. Then my doctor recommended going to Shands Hospital [in Gainesville] to get a biopsy done. So [my family and I] went up there the next week and I got the biopsy done. Afterwards they found out [what] it was…”

As a turning point in his adolescent years, Myers’ junior year was going quite differently than what he had expected. He disappeared from the campus halls and baseball games to begin treatment soon after the news of his sickness spread like wildfire across campus. “Pretty much everyone found out after my dad told [my baseball coach], Mr. [Adam] Bransfield, the news,” said Myers. The news was not only devastating for his family and coach, but also the baseball team, his girlfriend, senior Alex Fletter, and the rest of Seminole’s student body and staff. “I was in class when he went to get the biopsy done and the doctors just thought it was a bone cyst,” said Fletter, “He texted me and told me that it was cancer and I just cried. I was honestly scared for his life.”

“My initial reaction was sadness and frustration,” stated Bransfield, who was not only worried about Myers but also his team. “From a team standpoint it was a huge blow. He was our best pitcher.” Bransfield reflects on the overpowering feelings that the team could not seem to shake off, “The emotional impact that was felt by all of the players and coaches stuck with us all season. It was a cloud and a preoccupation that we could not escape.”

While school progressed, Myers was undergoing chemotherapy and various treatments, “[It] made me very tired and sick at times. I had no energy and did not want to eat much. [Despite this,] the nurses made everything relaxing and not hectic,” said Myers. During his absence, Seminole kept Myers in mind throughout the whole year, especially the baseball team.  “We did a ton of things [for him] last year,” said Bransfield, “[We held] a spaghetti dinner at Christo’s in Sanford, a huge rally at Route 46, shaving-of-the-heads night, [and] we [also] sold T-shirts.” With the proceeds going to his family, raising money for Myers was a huge priority, even for students and coaches from different schools. “One of the nicest things was done at Oviedo High. The Oviedo baseball coach, Harold Hitt, and some parents got together, made chili, and sold it at their field the night [our team] played them,” said Bransfield. Oviedo presented the money raised to Seminole, and it was given to the Myers family.

Myers spent almost all of his junior year in a hospital bed, but heard and saw everything his team and classmates were doing for him, “I really appreciate everything that’s been done for me. The support has just been outstanding and I cannot believe how everyone came together just for me. I love all of them.” Even with the separation, Myers and Fletter kept their relationship going, and it is stronger than ever before, “We’ve been dating for nine months as of Thursday , [September 15] and it’s been the absolute best. He is the sweetest and most caring guy I have ever met,” shared Fletter.

Due to Myers’ situation and his relationship with Fletter, many students bombarded her with questions and concerns regarding Myers’ illness, which was quite overwhelming at times, “ I felt like people only talk[ed] to me because of [his illness], but I got over it because people just want to know what’s going on. I answered their questions as best as I could,” she said. Some of the extra special treatment has also been too much for Myers: “I do not really like being the center of attention.”

Certainly, missing out on all the school activities has also been difficult for him, “It really sucks not seeing everyone. I really miss all of my friends and actually going to school. Not playing baseball is the worst thing ever. It was my life and now I cannot even play it. I know there was so much more I wanted to do with baseball that I will not be able to do now.” Though Myers has gradually recovered from his condition, he is excited and ready to join the class of 2012 for its last year. “I’m a little nervous, but really ready to come back. I want to see all of my friends again and just have a great senior year.”

He wants to thank his close friends, family, and girlfriend, Fletter, for all the support they have given him, “They came over all the time and were there for me when I needed them.” He gives advice to others, saying, “I feel that we should live life like there will be no tomorrow and not take things for granted.” Myers also shares his concern regarding senior Chloe Zulcosky, who was just diagnosed with six centimeter brain tumor, “Everyone [needs to] stay strong and positive about it. She’s got this, I just know it.”

Bransfield shares that the most important thing about Myers which makes him an outstanding, humble individual is that “[Myers] never once pouted or asked “why me.” He just accepted what had happened and rolled up his sleeves and began to fight.”

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