Meet Matthew Ilg
"So if you ask me 'What does survivorship mean to you?'… it means living and sharing! It means loving each day, each person, each moment."
After my diagnosis, I spent the entire month in the hospital, undergoing daily chemotherapy treatment and weekly procedures such as spinal taps. During this time, I did not have any motivation or energy. I was stuck in my bed, only sitting up to eat a meal or talk to a doctor. Most days, it was an accomplishment if I was able to stand up and walk the ten steps to the bathroom. My body grew incredibly weak during this month, but my mind remained strong. Every Thursday was bingo day and another chance for me to win headphones or small stuffed animals. Every Sunday was another dose of Septra, a pill so big that I needed to split it in half in order to have any chance of swallowing it. But each dose meant a week was completed, and each week marked seven days closer to going home. That was all I could think about.
I imagined how my dog would react, his tail wagging uncontrollably as he sprinted in circles around me and out the back door, rushing to and from with excitement. I pictured seeing my friends, exiting their cars and having just arrived back home from school, seeing me down the street, and the enormous smile that would come to both of our faces. I imagined all of this, while confined to my bed, counting down the minutes until these moments would become a reality.
I missed the majority of eighth grade, completing school work when I could, but primarily sleeping and watching TV shows such as The Price is Right. After the first month in the hospital, visits became week-long, staying seven days in the hospital, and then seven days at home. The weekly visits turned into once a month visits, which continued for three more years, until December of my junior year, when I was finally declared cancer free.
Not once, throughout my entire treatment process, did the thought of dying or losing to cancer cross my mind. That was never an option for me. What I did think about very often was my friends, my family, and my life. I realized just how much of life I had taken for granted, and how amazing my life truly is. I learned to take every day one step at a time, enjoying every little aspect and detail as much as possible. It is so important to live in the moment and appreciate what you have, because you never know when all of it could go away.
So if you ask me “What does survivorship mean to you?”… it means living and sharing! It means loving each day, each person, each moment. I even started a food blog called ilg.eats to document and share my love of food with others. In the hospital, the food is not that great (cue drum rim shot); and add in a little chemotherapy and the food has even less taste. So my mom and dad would ask me each day what I might be craving. And to the envy of all of the hospital staff, my parents would bring in calamari, sausage and mushroom pizza, penne pasta, and even the occasional McDonald’s French fries (so good)… anything which might be acceptable or even appealing to my taste buds. And now, I share my love of food with blogs about places in my city, or places we travel across the country and around the world. This is one of the ways I now love and appreciate each day; and share it with others.
The other way I will live and share with others is by pursuing a career in nursing. I will be able to help others the way my nurses and doctors helped me. I will be able to provide the best care possible along with compassion and understanding.