Husband, Father, Grandfather, Teacher, Red Cross Volunteer and Cancer Survivor
“The care I received at Gratiot was extraordinary. I recovered in time to teach my classes and spend a wonderful week with my wife and grandson.”
Paying It Forward Paid Off for Steve Matthews
When someone donates blood, they share the gift of life. For long-time donor Steve Matthews, the act of sharing helped save his own life.
“I started donating blood for the Red Cross when my wife Denyse needed blood for a hip surgery in 1993,” Steve said. “I continued to donate from that point on. I considered it a concrete way to give back as a good citizen and to be a good example for my second graders.”
Steve, who taught second grade for 27 years, retired from the classroom in 2008 but continued to teach driver education and administer road tests. He also found time to act as a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer and, of course, continued to donate blood as he had for 16 years.
In 2009, Steve went to Honduras on a dental mission trip and, per Red Cross guidelines, had to defer donating blood for one year.
Fortunately for Steve, the Red Cross changed their blood testing protocol during the time he was unable to donate.
“I was able to donate again in March of last year and, while checking my hemoglobin level, the nurses found an anomaly in my blood,” he said. “I had a reading of HH which I later found out meant high hemoglobin. I didn’t think too much of it because I felt great, had been exercising and had lost weight while on a diet. However, when I went to donate in May, I had the same result, so I decided to see my doctor.”
Steve’s doctor confirmed that something wasn’t right and referred him to Tannu Sahay, M.D., medical oncologist/hematologist at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot, for further diagnostic tests. A CT scan and a chest X-ray confirmed that cancer encompassed two-thirds of Steve’s left kidney.
Steve then consulted with urologist Talal O. Samhan, M.D., also of the Medical Center. “I chose to have surgery as soon as possible,” he said. “I had classes to teach in three weeks, and we were planning to babysit our 15-month old grandson in six weeks!”
The surgery to remove the kidney was successful; the cancerous mass was encapsulated within the kidney and there was no lymph node involvement. Steve felt he was in good hands at the Medical Center and was impressed by the level of professionalism.
“The care I received at Gratiot was extraordinary,” he said. “They didn’t coddle me -- they got me up and walking that first night of my three-day stay. They had me walk increasing lengths around the surgical floor so I could be strong enough to leave and finish my recovery at home. I recovered in time to teach my classes and spend a wonderful week with my wife and grandson.”
Six months after surgery to remove his kidney, a follow-up CT scan showed no evidence of any cancer. A second scan at 12 months, as well as quarterly blood tests, confirmed that. Steve is feeling well and grateful.
“Looking back, I realize that this may be one time when donating blood to save others lives may very well have saved my own.”
If cancer touches your life, it is comforting to know that you can count on the cancer care team at MidMichigan Medical Center– Gratiot. Our experienced physicians and staff provide compassionate, patient-centered care, supported by advanced cancer-fighting technology. For more information about our cancer services, visit www.midmichigan.org/cancer.