It’s the year of miracles: Cubs won the World Series; Donald Trump won the presidential election; and one local family is hoping for a miracle for a young dad and husband. Breese native Kris Fulkerson and her husband Matt Sharpe, who is originally from North Dakota, found their world turned upside down when Matt was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer on Oct. 6, 2016.
Up until Sept. 30, Matt, 41, was a personal trainer at the Clinton County YMCA, where he is known for his upbeat attitude and ever-present smile. Kris is a social worker who provides counseling at her office and at local schools, as well as providing community outreach for families in need.
The couple reside in Breese with their five children — Lyric, Hope, Ethan, Merit and Aanya — ages 10-16, two of which are special needs. Matt’s cancer diagnosis has placed a strain on a family already dealing with multiple health issues.
During a routine scan for a suspected kidney stone on Sept. 13, doctors discovered masses in the bottom of both of Matt’s lungs.
“We were stunned,” said Kris, “He hadn’t had any problems until he got bronchitis at the beginning of September and it all went downhill from there.”
While waiting for a PET scan to determine if the masses were cancerous, Matt ended up in Barnes Hospital due to blood clots blocking both his kidneys and his lungs. It was while at Barnes that the family was given the devastating news that Matt has Stage IV Adenocarcinoma, a lung cancer that strikes non-smokers at young ages, like Matt.
Unfortunately, Matt was waiting for the results of advanced testing to determine the best course of treatment for the cancer when life got much more complicated.
On Oct. 13, just one week after bringing Matt home from the hospital, Kris came home from counseling at Aviston to find that Matt had suffered a massive stroke on the right side of his brain. Shortly after being admitted to Barnes ICU, Matt had two more strokes, this time on the left side of his brain. The three strokes left Matt catatonic for days and when he finally woke up, he was blind, unable to talk or walk, and could not understand anything being said to him. Matt spent another 40 days hospitalized, receiving multiple intensive therapies and medical treatment.
“The doctors have said over and over what a miracle Matt’s recovery has been from his strokes. In five weeks, he has regained his ability to have conversations, he now has full sight in his right eye and partial in his left eye, he can feed himself, and he walks so well that sometimes he breaks out in dance,” shared his wife Kris.
The family was thrilled to be able to bring Matt home two days before Thanksgiving. But, bringing Matt home has created an enormous burden on the family. Due to Matt’s strokes, he requires 100 percent supervision and is unable to care for himself. In addition, his radiation treatments have left him unable to swallow food or medicine, so Kris has to administer all his medications and his food through a stomach tube. Moreover, Matt is in incredible pain and experiences terrible nausea and hiccups that last for hours without end.
Family and friends have pulled together to provide time for Kris to get out of the house and occasionally work, but the stress of managing Matt’s care and keeping a household with five kids running is taking its toll – and the medical bills have only just begun to roll in.
With Matt’s flexible work schedule, he was often the one who took the kids to and from school, as well as to tumbling, dance and their doctor appointments. He was the biggest support for his oldest child, Lyric, who has autism and generalized anxiety disorder, and his youngest child, Aanya, who has Turner’s Syndrome.
In fact, Matt was a meat cutter for Market Basket in Edwardsville until 2012 when he quit to go back to school, so that he could be a personal trainer and have more time to help with the kids. Matt was always one for watching a funny video and could often be found searching for the next movie he could share with the kids. Matt loved working out, Dairy King and Casey’s pizza. While he wasn’t raised in Clinton County, he embraced our community and it has been no surprise that the community has rallied to help him.
Several friends and family members have gotten together to have Miracle for Matt T-shirts made, which can be purchased for $10 at the Clinton County YMCA in Breese at St. Joseph’s Hospital HealthPlex. There is also a raffle being drawn Dec. 13, with incredible prizes including a Yeti package, Mark McGwire signed jersey, a barrel of booze and a gun.
Tickets are $10 each or three for $20 and can be purchased at the Clinton County YMCA, all local Germantown Trust & Savings locations, and at the Breakfast with Santa this Sunday, Dec. 4 at Mater Dei High School in Breese. Or you can call Maggie Timmermann at (618) 792-9217 or Gina Rakers at (618) 304-6703. Donations are also being received at GTSB and can be made out to Miracle for Matt.
If a financial contribution isn’t something you can do, please consider praying and sending positive thoughts that Matt and his family will get their miracle.
The prognosis for stage IV lung cancer is bleak, and with the strokes, it is even worse. But, there is always hope and with hope, miracles can happen. Please help us make a miracle.”
Astroth was inducted into the Alton High School Athletic Hall of Fame during a Redbirds basketball game on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Astroth also played college football for St. Louis University and was a longtime superintendent at Central Community High School in Breese.
An Alton graduate of the class of 1946, Mr. A was a three-sport letter winner in football, basketball and baseball. He was captain of the football team in 1945 and 1946; named Southwestern Conference Quarterback of the Year in 1945 and 1946; and named Alton area “Player of the Year” in 1945 and 1946.
He lettered two years on the Alton High School basketball team in 1945 and 1946 and played as a forward on the Southwestern Conference Championship Team (25-4 record). He was named to 1st Team All Southwestern Conference in 1945.
Astroth earned a football scholarship to St. Louis University in 1946 where he earned a master’s degree in Education.
He held various teaching and coaching positions in the 1950s and early 1960s: Assumption High School in East St. Louis, Christopher High School, Springfield Junior College, Springfield Griffin High School; and Aviston High School.
He served as principal of Aviston High School from 1963-70. He was named superintendent in 1970 when the new Central Community High School district was being created. He served as superintendent at Central until his retirement in 1994. Congratulations to Bob Astroth, or “Mr. A” as he is affectionately known by many locals and Central High School alumni.
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