Last year, Matt Wixon was a healthy man who worked out every day. For work, he owned a moving company based in Washington, DC, loading up trucks with supplies in the morning and helping crews overcome logistical challenges during the day.
But he visited a doctor after changes in bowel habits and slight abdominal discomfort lasted just a little too long.
“The doctor said, ‘It’s a 99% likelihood you have hemorrhoids, but for peace of mind, we can go ahead and get the colonoscopy—but you’ll probably have to pay for it out-of-pocket,” Matt recalled.
Without warning, Matt learned he had stage-IV colorectal cancer. He also became part of an alarming trend: colorectal cancer rates are increasing in adults under 50, and doctors don’t know why.
Contemptuous, bewildered, and disoriented are words Matt uses to describe how he felt in the days following.
His feeling were heightened by the impending birth of his first child. A boy named William Booker.
“I was diagnosed right before our son was born, and when you have a child, you have visions of what the future would entail, and now all of that is summarily threatened by the diagnosis,” Matt said. “But the truth is, I gained so much strength and hope from my son.”
William, now 11 months old, has become an increasingly curious baby, Matt said. William is “disconcertingly unafraid.” He is a capricious eater, but always loves blueberries. And he enjoys dismembering books, which are a staple of the Wixon household.
“This disease is tremendously unfair, but when you have a kid, you have to feed and change him and constantly adapt, as he’s learning new things and finding new ways to … hit his head,” Matt said. “You can’t turn it off. You can’t decide today I’ll feel sad because life is unfair.”
For motivation, Matt looks forward to the things he’ll do with his son. High on the list are hiking in New Zealand and “the progression and parade of books” they will read together.
“I’m constantly thinking about when will we read the first Sherlock Holmes, or when will we read Jack London together, or when I’ll introduce more complex authors, like Shakespeare,” Matt said. “I’m committed to being a part of those experiences, so that just imbues me with purpose.”
In the midst of treatment, running a company, and being a father and husband, Matt also believes that those who are well have an obligation to help those who aren’t. And that’s why he participates in the DC ScopeItOut 5K every year. This year’s race is March 18.
Despite chemotherapy kicking him down for a couple days at a time, he can still lace up.
“I can still rally my friends, I can still raise money, I can still do something,” Matt said. “I don’t have to be adrift between doctors visits.”
Matt’s wife, Kate, learned of the ScopeItOut event, and they quickly became one of the top fundraisers. The event is inspiring and enlivening, Matt said, as 30 of his friends and family attended, joining thousands of other allies.
“When you’re dealing with a diagnosis that’s surprising and harsh, it’s easy to feel powerless and hopeless,” Matt said. “So when you’re able to get out in the community going through similar challenges, and you’re able to feel like you’re a part of something greater than yourself … I needed that.”
Matt said he hopes that young people, in particular, will learn more about this disease.
“This disease is on the march, and they would be floored and flabbergasted by their diagnosis,” Matt said. “If something’s wrong, talk to your doctor.”
In March, we celebrate National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Join us as we build our nation of passionate allies, fiercely determined to end this disease within our lifetime.