Pequot Lakes grad seeks help in cancer fight
Matthew Fabian, a student at Bemidji State University, suffered a stroke after having a growth on his brain stem removed that turned out to be medulloblastoma, a pediatric tumor usually found in young children and rarely in individuals Fabian's age.
After a doctor's appointment led to the discovery of a tumor on 2018 Pequot Lakes High School graduate Matthew Fabian's brain, he and his family are asking for help from his hometown community to tackle the challenges ahead financially.
It wasn't that long ago that Fabian, 20, of Breezy Point, was gracing the local news for his accomplishments on the Pequot Lakes trap shooting team. He went on to nationals and earned the distinction of being 19th in the nation. Fabian also lettered in football, track and speech and was a member of band, which received many superior ratings at the time. All the while, Fabian's grades were at the top of his class.
Fabian was no stranger while going to high school in Pequot Lakes, and now his family hopes his community can help him as he faces his battle with a rare cancer.
If it weren't for this discovery, Fabian would have gone back to Bemidji State University to finish his final year in college. He's studying biology with a medical emphasis and cellular biology and serving as a resident adviser in the dormitories. Fabian was particularly excited because this year he qualified for a private room with private bathroom and an air conditioner, luxuries most students don't get on campus.
But those luxuries will have to wait.
The tumor was discovered when Fabian went for a checkup to root out the cause of morning headaches he'd been having. The tipping point was when the headaches started to lead to nausea.
"He was getting ready to go back to college and he had been having some dull headaches," said Renee Fabian, Matthew's mother. "We decided to check it out. We brought him into Crosby and they did an MRI on him and then life-flighted him to St. Cloud."
They had seen a growth on his brain stem that needed to be removed immediately on July 22. To make matters more complicated, Matthew suffered a stroke a day after the surgery while at the hospital, even before test results came back on the mass removed from his head.
"The stroke affected the right side of his body," his mother said. "It affected his ability to swallow and he had double vision. There are also little things we're finding that they hadn't noticed."
As time went on, complications kept occurring. Matthew had to have a drain tube in his skull, which broke and required surgery to remove. He had to have a feeding tube until he regained the ability to swallow, and he developed pneumonia.
The results came back while Matthew was recovering from the stroke. It was a medulloblastoma, a pediatric tumor usually found in young children and rarely in individuals Matthew's age.
To complicate matters, treatment for medulloblastoma was delayed until Matthew had recovered substantially from the stroke and other complications. Needless to say, the family felt impatient to get to work fighting what can be an aggressive cancer.
"We're just getting that ball going," Renee said. "The stroke delayed it. We're in three and a half weeks here. We'll get that ball going and start treating that with radiation. After six weeks of radiation they'll start chemo."
Renee believes Matthew's recovery so far has been helped by his tenacity and his tendency to follow the rules.
"He's been good spirited," Renee said. "And he's been doing exactly what his therapists want him to do."
Matthew worked his way through physical therapy to be able to sit up, stand up, walk and swallow. Doctors predict that because he is young, he will likely recover fully from the stroke, though his double vision may take some time. In the meantime, once he had recovered enough and no longer had fluid in his brain, Matthew was able to go home and prep for continued treatment.
"He just want(ed) to be with his family and his dogs and just to be home," Renee said. "He's a family oriented kid."
On Aug. 24, Matthew and Renee went on the next leg of his journey to Rochester, where Matthew is beginning his treatment. Matthew's journey is being tracked on CaringBridge.com. To help people contribute to Matthew's battle, a GoFundMe page was created for the family, with a goal of $25,000 to go toward medical bills.
"I have no clue what three and a half weeks in a hospital and three brain surgeries costs," Renee said. "I'm sure we'll find out pretty soon. Then there's the cancer treatments."
Matthew and his family are itching to get back to a regular lifestyle where he can finish his last year at BSU, continue shooting for the BSU trap shooting team and play for the pep band. No doubt the last thing they were prepared for this year was unexpected medical bills. Regardless, they are going to fight like crazy.
"We're doing fine emotionally," Renee said. "We continually have people stopping in to talk to us, and when we get home it'll be family. Our support system is good. We have a strong family unit and we're going to work hard and do what he needs to get strong. Then we'll deal with the next step as it comes."
Matthew's journey can be found at caringbridge.org/visit/matthewfabian. Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/matthew-fabian-major-unexpected-medical-battle.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.