Six brain surgeries, five rounds of chemotherapy, stage 4 high-grade glioma and one tumor. This would be a challenge for any adult, yet it all rests behind the smiling eyes of 22-month-old Huntley boy, Matthew Erickson.
“When Matthew was born we were given two options: hospice or treatment. We chose treatment,” said Matthew’s mother, Sue Erickson.
At just four days old, Matthew underwent his first brain surgery and soon began chemotherapy. He spent the first 13 months of his life in the hospital fighting this aggressive disease. Now, Matthew is 14 months chemotherapy-free but will never live a life without cancer.
“The doctors are floored by how well he’s doing. When we go to the hospital they say, ‘here comes the miracle,’ ” Erickson said.
The Erickson family attended the Flyweight Bowl at Marlowe Middle School on Saturday afternoon, where they were given a check for $3,600 from Tackle for Pink.
Parents in the Huntley Youth Football program nominated local families in need of assistance because of the financial burdens of a family struggling with a loved one affected by cancer. The Erickson family was chosen as the 2013 recipient.
Bouncing and giggling in the arms of Huntley Mustangs coach, Chris Behles, one would never know the challenges this little fighter has overcome.
“The kids know there’s a little boy in the community that has challenges that they don’t and they need to help him out,” Behles said.
Tackle for Pink was founded by Huntley Youth Football President Ron Ricciardi in memory of his younger brother, Pasquale, who at the age of 21 lost his battle with pediatric cancer. Ricciardi has seen first-hand the struggles of families dealing with pediatric cancer and wanted to bring awareness to families in need in his own community. Ricciardi said he wanted to make Huntley Youth Football more than just an athletic program.
“It is a bigger picture; a bigger fight,” Ricciardi said.
The Erickson family was all smiles during the event, and Matthew was awarded a medal and Mustangs helmet, which matched his Mustangs T-shirt he was wearing.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Erickson said. “To know that people from the community that don’t even know us are taking such a stand to help us out.”
Erickson said Matthew is doing well, and they’re looking forward to celebrating his 2nd birthday on Dec. 11.
“He’s always happy and smiling,” Erickson said. “He wakes up in the morning and pops his eyes open and just looks up at you with a big smile. He never cries.”
Matthew’s tumor has not grown in 14 months, but he continues to suffer from hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid in the cavities within the brain increasing the size of the ventricles and putting pressure on the brain. While there still are many challenges ahead, the family remains hopeful.
“He’s thriving,” Erickson said. “There’s a light in his eyes.”