Matt Beaudet’s wedding day is a day he’ll never forget, but not for the same reason most couples remember their special ceremony.
The Fort Saskatchewan 34-year-old father of three had the grim task of telling his friends and family that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of soft-tissue cancer in his foot two days before.
“We had to cancel the honeymoon. And on the evening of our wedding day, we went around and told people who were from out of town because we wanted to tell them in person,” he recalled.
“The reaction and hug meant a ton. So that was a really hard evening … in a way we kind of felt like our wedding day was taken away.”
The doctors wanted to operate on Beaudet’s foot a day after his wedding to remove a large tumor cause by synovial sarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer, from his foot. He ended up having his foot amputated about a week after the wedding.
Beaudet received a prosthetic foot and his recovery went smoothly. This last summer, he was able to complete a 30-kilometre hike and went biking, camping and fishing with his family.
But in late October, more than a year after being cancer free, Beaudet found out during a checkup that the cancer had spread to his lungs.
“This one hit me a lot harder,” Beaudet said. “The first time they said we’re going to cut your foot off and you’ll be okay. It was just a foot, I have my life. This time it was in my lungs, and you can’t just cut your lungs out. So it really hit home.”
Beaudet was told that medical treatments would only postpone the inevitable and he was given a median prognosis of one year to live.
“I got very angry when that happened actually … at that point I felt like I was a number,” he said.
He recalls being depressed for days. At first, he didn’t tell any of his colleagues that the cancer returned. But he knew he’d eventually have to break the news to his kids, aged 14, 10 & four.
“The hardest thing so far for me was telling my kids,” Beaudet said. “I remember telling my oldest and she just said ‘You guys have got to be joking me’. But we weren’t … I was pretty devastated at that point.”
But Beaudet is not one to give up. He’s launched a fundraiser which he believes will help his chances of beating the disease. But he also wants to give hope to others with the rare form of cancer.
“Anything we don’t need, we’re not going to spend and I’m going to donate that money,” Beaudet said. “I want to try and make it easier for the next guy going through it — I don’t wanna die knowing another person has to go through the same thing I had to go through.”
Beaudet had his first chemotherapy treatment on Nov. 30 and returns for his second on Dec. 21. It’s safe to say the treatments aren’t coming at the easiest time of year.
The therapy makes Beaudet sick, nauseous and tired, and his wife Jacquelyn works full-time. So the family has hired some help around the house. Throughout the ordeal, the family has incurred significant debt.
Beaudet worked two jobs while his wife was in school for four years, during which they racked up credit card bills.
“We were able to start paying back those bills we accumulated when we were both working … We just started gaining traction and got hit. And then I just got back to work, worked seven months and we got hit again.”
The family had to dish out $7,000 for a prosthetic foot because the government only covers one every two years (he’s had to go through three due to his tumour shrinking).
Beaudet lost wages due to time off work, has faced mounting prescription costs and paid significant money to create a will for himself and his wife.
And then there’s Christmas. Realizing it may be his last, Beaudet insisted his entire extended family come from his small town of Castlegar, B.C., to spend with his family in Fort Saskatchewan.
His parents and sister have health issues, and the family has assisted with his parent’s winter tires, car maintenance and plane tickets for extended family.
“We told the kids this Christmas wasn’t going to be extravagant, we have other priorities,” Beaudet said. “We have my family coming, which is all that matters. This will be the first time in my life that I have my entire family all together under one roof for Christmas dinner.”
Beaudet’s disability coverage has not kicked in yet, and they had critical illness coverage, but had to spend it during the first diagnosis when he lost his foot.
He’s also committed to a lifestyle change, focusing on holistic and organic products, which also comes at a cost, and he is researching alternative cancer treatments.
“If there’s something else out there that’s going to help me heal, I’d like to use the money for that too,” he said.
All of these factors have led to Beaudet asking for help, which is not something he would usually do. He also doesn’t want to leave his family in debt if he suffers an untimely death.
Beaudet and his wife were scared and worried leading up to Christmas, but with nearly $14,000 raised of their $30,000 goal, they’re confidant they will have a Christmas to remember.
“With the support we have now, the burden is gone,” Beaudet said. “The support has been overwhelming … I’ve just been in awe. I cry daily and they’re tears of joy.”
He’s received support from friends, family, past teachers and complete strangers. He said the ordeal has helped him appreciate the importance of spending time with friends and family and he wants to do anything he can to help other cancer patients survive the disease.
“I will figure out a way, and if it doesn’t work out for me, I hope to God it works out for the next guy,” Beaudet said.
He’s looking forward to spending Christmas with his entire family, but isn’t ready to believe that it could be his last. He’s already planning another hike for next summer.
“I’ve got so much to live for,” Beaudet said. “I’ve got three kids … I’ve got a lot more to lose than just my life. And for me that’s my main motivation.”
To donate to Beaudet’s cause, visit www.gofundme.com/6edqe9cc.