A former Brazil resident is on a quest to help bring aid to cancer victims worldwide.
Matt Switzer, a 1985 graduate of Northview High School, received some very shaking news when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 16. He was thrust quickly into a relatively new chemotherapy program after a ruptured tumor spread to his lungs.
Surviving through such an ordeal at such a young age, Switzer said he felt compelled to reach out and lend a helping hand to people who were facing the obstacles he was unfortunate enough to have endured through himself.
"I kind of felt like I had a responsibility to do more than I had been doing," Switzer said. "And I really wanted to do something that would be a challenge."
Switzer found that challenge two years ago when he decided to run in the St. Louis Marathon April 2007. Despite no formal training as a runner, Switzer came in less than a minute under his preset goal of four-and-a-half hours.
Switzer has taken the experience and run with it further.
To commemorate his 25th year of remission, he signed up for the Chicago Marathon, to take place Sunday, Oct. 11.
To make matters better, he was selected to run with the Lance Armstrong Foundation Team.
Switzer's plight has various similarities to that of the seven-time Tour De France Champion.
Not only are they both survivors of testicular cancer, but they both received treatment from the same doctor, Lawrence Einhorn, the head of Oncology at Indiana University. Switzer said it was an honor to be selected to Armstrong's team, saying he "has really taken the lead in bringing the (testicular cancer) issue to the forefront."
Switzer has been training with an online program by running guru Hal Higdo and hopes to complete the Chicago Marathon in under four hours.
Though he said he was always given a high chance of survival, Switzer has overcome several obstacles in his fight toward remission. He and his wife Amy, with whom he's been married for 19 years, were told there was a very good chance they would never produce a child.
After three years of trying, they were instructed to see a fertility specialist in Colorado. Luckily for the couple, their dreams of conception came to fruition.
In the time between making their appointment and the appointment itself, Amy discovered she was pregnant with the couples' first child, Allison, now 12.
Since then, the couple has had two more children, Eric, 10, and Abby, 7. Amy, who didn't meet Matt until several years after his diagnosis, said she has taken great pleasure in being with him as he has conquered all the obstacles he has faced.
"It's been amazing," she said of her time with her husband. "I feel like I've been on the journey with him. To get through everything together has been a real gift."
The Switzers currently reside in Columbia, Mo. Matt is currently seeking his PHD in Mathematics Education. He is in his third year of a four-year program.
After teaching math at the high school and junior high school level for 15 years, Switzer said he wanted to find a way to reach out to kids who struggled with mathematics more quickly.
Regardless of where he goes in his professional life, Switzer said four people he and his wife are acquainted with have recently been diagnosed with cancer, two of which were terminal cases.
He said he hoped to stay connected to helpful causes and was hopeful other cancer survivors would take the time to realize the responsibility they carry to help educate the public on the importance of being involved.
"Almost everybody knows somebody who has cancer," Switzer said. "It's a disease that hits so many people and yet, it's so under funded. There is a part of me that feels a responsibility to do something for people and I will do anything I can do to help."
For more information, or to donate to Switzer's cause, visit www.livestrong.org/grassroots2009/mattch....
Switzer has already received more than $2,000 in donations and is hoping to reach $3,500.