Tonya Bell reminisces matter-of-factly that her son Matt was “having the best baseball season he’s ever had, even though his team was struggling with one player down with mononucleosis, then another out with a broken shoulder, then another benched and then … in April, Matt was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 2.”
Matt has said all along that he knows he can win against this thing, this worthy but beatable opponent.
During his 12 weeks of chemotherapy, Matt played golf a couple of times each week. He kept working as a lifeguard, too. He lost his hair on a Saturday – the day before he graduated from high school – and most people just thought he’d shaved his head because he maintained an amazing energy and positive attitude throughout the treatment. He also ran/walked in the Peachtree Road Race this summer, much to the amazement (and a little dismay) of his mother. Matt simply said he wanted to do as much of the Peachtree as he could. (He finished the course.)
Just three days before we interviewed Tonya for this article, Matt began radiation treatments, 15 minutes every day at a facility 90 minutes away from his home. “The radiation therapy is tougher than the chemo,” says Tonya, “but the next six to eight weeks will be even harder as we wait for the PET scan that will tell us what the next step will be.”
The Oconee baseball family has been amazing, according to Tonya. Matt was able to play his beloved game for two months prior to his diagnosis, so he felt pretty good during most of the season. Throughout the season, the Oconee baseball family was truly amazing. They all came to the hospital, including the coaches. There was a huge banner in Matt’s room that everyone signed when they came. One of the team moms stayed in communication with Tonya the entire time, keeping others informed daily via phone calls, email and Facebook, and his high school coach still calls regularly to check on him. The day Matt had his first eight-hour chemotherapy, the team set up a schedule so that someone was praying every hour.
Matt finds himself tiring easily as he enters Piedmont College in Demorest, GA, a small, private college where Matt intends to continue to play baseball. At one of his first practices at Piedmont, one of the boys asked what kind of razor he used to get such a great shave. Matt’s answer? “No razor necessary … it just fell out.”
As the mom of two college baseball players, I once wrote this thought in my journal: “When Life’s pitcher throws you a curve ball, you have three options: (1) back away and hope you don’t take one on the chin; (2) watch it slide by without doing anything, or (3) step into it with determination and swing your bat … hard.” I’m betting that Matt Bell gets on base with every at-bat.
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