Steward Man Finds New Life From Cancer Battle 2009: Matt Rhodes

Steward Man finds new life from cancer battle

MATT RHODES didn’t realize how alive he could be until he overcame a period in his life when it looked as if he might
be dying. “That was probably the first time it really hit me how close I was to death,” said Rhodes. “The tumors had gone outside of my lymph system, so they were basically everywhere. My whole chest and torso was pretty much full of tumors — my spleen, my lungs, my bone marrow — all over the place.” Fast forward to today. Rhodes, 39, is cancer-free. He and his wife, Claire, have become avid triathletes, competing for charity under the banner of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program. It’s a phenomenal survival story, with a neat love-story subplot. Before he contracted lymphoma, Matt considered himself a reasonably healthy bachelor who ran a little and worked out at the gym to stay in shape. But after surgery to remove the tumor, followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy and 12 weeks of radiation treatment, he had to learn to walk again. He used a walker at first, then a cane. About a year into his rehabilitation, he went on a ski trip to Colorado, where he met Claire through mutual friends. While the two were swimming, she noticed a large surgical scar on his back. He told her his cancer story and thought he’d killed a budding romance. “When we got back to the lodge, I made things even worse by showing her a Web site I’d made with pictures and a journal from my rehab,” he said. “She basically got to see me near death only a year before. She was flush and had a blank look on her face afterward, and I thought, ‘Good job, Matt. Way to screw up this relationship. This isn’t going anywhere.’ But she stuck with a guy who should have been a ‘no’ the second you hear stuff like this.” “I’d never done anything like this,” Matt recalled. “I’d only done one other race in my life, a four-mile road race. I had no real concept of what it would take or how good it would feel. My initial thinking was do something easy, but Claire said, ‘No, no, let’s challenge ourselves.'”‰”
Since 2006, Matt and Claire have competed in more than 10 triathlons together, raising several thousand dollars toward finding a lymphoma cure. They recently took part in the Avia Wildflower Half-Ironman and are now training for their third Escape From Alcatraz triathlon in June. Even though Claire generally beats Matt, he adores the fast-growing sport.

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