What would you do if you only had three months to live? What would you do if you only had one month to live?
What would you do if you spent the last three years preparing to die, and then realized, it’s been three years and you’re still not dead?
If you haven’t noticed, I’m still alive. This may come as a surprise to some of you and frankly it’s a surprise to me as well. In fact, I recently reached the three year anniversary of my 3 month life.
I’ve blogged about a lot of the things that happened in the first year or so. And then I got tired of blogging. A lot has happened in the years since then, and I feel this urge to read through all of my posts, catch up on what I’ve shared and what I haven’t, fill in the gaps, and release the extended director’s cut of “Matt is going to die, wait he’s not, then he almost did, and now somehow he’s still alive.”
I’m not excited about reliving (redying?) the last three years to tell you about it. So, I’m not going to do that, but I will give a brief recap of season 1, followed with some very important updates. Here goes…
Season 1, Recap
In November of 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Medullary Thyroid Cancer. My doctor informed me that, without effective treatment, I would probably die in about 3 months. I found an amazing team of cancer doctor people. I chose not to do a very very risky surgery. I was not a candidate for radiation, traditional chemo, or any of the fun things normal cancer people get to do. I retired from my life’s work as a juggler, comedian, and performing artist. I was able to stay alive with variable qualities of life, thanks to a relentless, and sometimes brutal, trial and error of oral chemotherapy. Some of the treatments didn’t work at all and some lasted a few months. Through all of this, I also had severe chronic pain and 20+ pills a day to prove it.
I managed to get on social security disability. Which was a process almost more miserable than the cancer itself. I’m grateful though because that money was just enough to keep a roof over my head… well sort-of. We had to move 4 times, downsizing each time, just to cope with rising costs of living, inflation, and my new fixed income.
Oh, and I think there was a pandemic in there somewhere.
My big fat cancer update
In the fall of 2021 I developed a very rare (of course 🙄) complication called Cushing’s Syndrome. Some of you may have heard of it. It’s not uncommon for people with brain tumors but pretty much unheard of for medullary thyroid cancer. I went to an Endocrinologist that grilled me on my health history because she didn’t believe that I could have developed Cushing’s with my current diagnosis. Well I did get it, and it SUCKED. Cushing’s dumped a bunch of cortisol into my body which gave me a high-blood pressure, additional joint pain, increased anxiety, a hunchback (like Moto Hoonchbach!), and a very uncomfortably bloated body. I gained almost 50lbs in just a couple months. I wasn’t just large, I was inflated like the Michelin man. Every time I looked in the mirror I wanted to cry, and sometimes I did. I just didn’t look like me. I didn’t want to die in a body I didn’t recognize.
In April of 2021, I almost died. For real this time. We had exhausted all possible treatments, and I was declining. Things were looking pretty dim. I was hardly able to dress myself. The pain was, at times, unbearable even with an extraordinary amount of palliative medication. We started talking to hospice care and forming a plan for my final days. Very surreal to say the least.
In a last ditch effort, my oncologist took a biopsy and had me tested a second time for a specific genetic variant. Surprisingly, the result was different from the first biopsy 2 years previous.
This new information opened the door for another oral chemo that had just come out of trials, Retevmo.
I don’t know why my doctor thought to test a new biopsy, but her hunch ended up being a true miracle.
In just a few months, my labs were looking better, my scans were looking better, I started losing weight and gaining my strength back, AND a year and a half later… Retevmo is still beating the crap out of my cancer.
I’m not cancer free, but the cancer is sleeping.
AND… I am stable.
Let’s all take a moment to let that sink in.
I want to thank every doctor, nurse and assistant that worked tirelessly – every friend, family member and stranger that supported, donated, prayed, and gave me the love I needed so I can be here to write these words today… Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I am stable, but my cancer journey is far from over. I have a lot more to share about what my life is like now and what the future may hold. So keep your eyes out for a few more blog posts. Some of it is not so great. Some of it is. I don’t consider myself a survivor, but I am surviving.
Much love to you all. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Matthew Louis Tardy
My team of Miracle workers:
Dr. Laura Chow, Head Neck Lung Cancer Specialist
Lindsay Kozicz, Physicians Assistant
Emily McLeod, Palliative Care Nurse
Josephine Ashford, My Love