Annual Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles 5k Run/Walk
LOCATION: This 5k Run will take place on May 23, 2020 at Nay Aug Park in Scranton, starting and ending in the area of the Schimelfenig near the pool
Race Start: 9:00AM
REGISTRATION: From 7:30 am to 8:45 am at the Schimelfenig Pavilion (near pool).
Awards: Medals for the top Male & Female in each age group, and a gift card for the overall Male & Female winners!
Age Groups: 12 and under, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60+
The “4” in the name of Matthew McDonnell’s nonprofit organization is significant to him because God healed him four times, he says.
MISSION: This page is dedicated to our son and hero, Matthew Christian, who is affectionately known as “Super Matt” by family, friends, and strangers who have become part of our extended family. This page initially began as a “Team Matthew” page to keep family and friends updated with his current condition during a 4.5 year battle with a rare form of pediatric cancer, known as known as blastemal-predominant Wilm’s Tumor.
This page is now being transitioned into a platform for Matthew’s new non-profit, known as “Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles.” Our mission is to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, raise funds for cutting-edge research and more effective treatments, as well as to provide support to families who are living this nightmare. Currently the National Cancer Institute allocates less than 4% of its funds for pediatric cancer research. This is outrageous! We are on a mission, along with thousands of others, to take a stand and make a difference for all of our children. Every dollar really can make the difference for thousands of children battling this horrific disease. Will you join us on this crusade to end pediatric cancer?
Matthew’s journey with kidney cancer (Wilm’s tumor) began over 4 years ago. He has endured 5 major surgeries, several minor surgeries, 13 months of intense chemotherapy (3 months inpatient), and 25 cumulative radiation treatments. He battled a rare form of Wilm’s that put him in the high-risk category. Despite all that he has endured at such a young age, I can say without a doubt that he has the Joy of the Lord. He is a very spiritual little boy who is connected to God in a powerful way. He has taught us more about strength, courage, faith, hope, and love than anyone ever has. We believe without a doubt that God has His hand on him and that He has a good plan for his life.
After his first relapse, in November of 2014, the treatment protocol that was recommended was high dose chemo, which would require a stem cell transplant for a 20% chance of survival. As I’m sure any parent would agree, those were not encouraging numbers, so we declined and decided to go home and pray for God’s wisdom. We traveled to Washington, Boston, and New York following this relapse looking for an ounce of hope. Sadly, we found very little at all of the other mainstream institutions.
That’s when we literally watched as God began finding and building a unique team of alternative physicians (Pediatric-integrative oncologist, Oncology researchers, Oncology Naturopathic Physicians) from all over the country. When you are dealing with a high risk disease, your medical team has to be willing to think outside the box. Standard treatment rarely works when you have a unique case. Each human being has an individualized genetic make-up that should be considered when making treatment decisions. It is unfathomable to think that traditional medicine in 2019 is not individualized, but sadly, in many cases, it is not.
After almost a year of “clear scans,” the unthinkable happened when he relapsed again in November of 2015. It was surreal to say the least. We spent a month away from home that December. He spent Christmas Eve getting intense radiation. Matthew underwent his third surgery and 17 proton radiation treatments. To the amazement of the entire staff, he was able to complete these procedures without sedation. I will attest that the procedure is quite intimidating for an adult, never mind a 5 year old. However, once again, we watched as God held Matthew’s hand and gave him the courage to complete his treatment. It wasn’t until he completed his last treatment that he ran into my arms and cried, admitting how hard it was.
Just six months after completing this treatment, he once again relapsed in June of 2016. I can honestly say that I know what “evil” feels like as it nearly knocked me over while I was standing next to Matthew’s bed in the ER at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He had been complaining of stomach pain on and off and finally spiked a fever so we contacted our oncologist. She was in the process of ordering an ultrasound, when Matthew’s symptoms became much worse so we drove to CHOP’s ER that evening. The nurse practitioner said upon evaluation that his spleen felt enlarged. In my attempt at coping, I was trying to convince myself that he simply had a viral infection; hence the fever. When the doctor walked in and said that he had a large mass inside his abdomen, our world once again shattered. I honestly can say that it was just as hard (if not harder) to hear these words because this time we knew too much.
Our oncologists at CHOP initially offered a new trial to us, knowing that standard chemotherapy had not worked in the past. We jumped at the idea of not having to use chemo with all of the terrible side effects. When the tumor did not respond, we had no choice but to began a regimen of high dose chemotherapy. Much to everyone’s disappointment, the tumor continued to grow.
On December 15, 2006, our oncologist called and said, “I’m so very sorry but I do not believe Matthew will be successfully treated. We are out of options.” Silence.
Within seconds, the Holy Spirit bubbled up inside of me and I said, “Well, the medical community may be out of options, but God is just getting started. Hold on for the ride.”
Four days later, as we were sitting in the oncology clinic, our oncologist came running at us waving a folder. When she reached us, she said, “I have good news! I found a trial that has the potential to cure Matthew.” That word, CURE, was not heard in almost 2 years at that point. I knew this was a Christmas Miracle.
Now this once again put us on whirlwind journey traveling the East Coast to find a surgeon capable of and willing to perform one of the most high-risk surgeries. The tumor was pressing against numerous organs inside his abdominal wall. MRI’s and specialized CT scans were not providing clear enough images to know what they were actually dealing with, so each surgeon was understandably concerned.
After meeting with the top 3 pediatric surgeons, we prayed and made our decision. Then, a week before surgery was scheduled, that surgeon personally called us and said that he required emergency surgery himself and was unable to operate on Matthew. We received this call while we were taking a dinner break in a small rural Maryland restaurant on our way home from Washington D.C. where we met with the top National Wilm’s Tumor expert. Patrick and I just looked at each other and I said, “what are we going to do now?” In true Matthew optimism, he got up from his seat, stood next to me and put his arm around me and said, “Don’t worry Mommy. We know other doctors. I want the one who called me Sponge Bob Square Pants!” It was as if Matthew knew who would partner with God to perform the Miracle we so desperately needed.
The day before we were to be in Washington for the second T cell retrieval, Matthew was emergently admitted to the ER at Sloan Kettering in New York because he had developed an intestinal complication. Four days later he was scheduled for the OR. Those 4 days were some of the darkest days of our lives. At one point, the world-class surgeon started to have second thoughts and gave us the option of forgoing the surgery and taking him home to “make him comfortable.” This was simply not an option for us. I once again relied on God to give me the words to help convince the surgeon to proceed. Thankfully, he agreed.
On February 23, 2017, Matthew’s ongoing Miracle continued to unfold. The surgeon burst out of the OR and said, “He’s fine! It came out in one piece!” We will never forget the look on his face. He knew exactly what happened. After a month-long recovery with several complications, we were able to make it to Washington, D.C. in time for the first T-Cell infusion. We believe that God used this 8 month treatment in addition to a successful surgery and so many other factors to cure Matthew. Now, we want the same outcome for every child who is called to walk this road.
Matthew recently reminded me “Love never fails, Mommy.” No, Matthew it doesn’t…
Follow Matthew’s journey and learn about upcoming events for Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles by liking and following his Facebook page at bit.ly/2R9yId8.
Donations can be made by checks made out to “Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles” and mailed to Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles c/o Scranton Area Foundation, 615 Jefferson Ave., Suite 102, Scranton, PA, 18510.