September, 2013 is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and there’s not a better time to bring focus to a courageous young boy, Matthew Barker, a ten-year-old from Grimes, Iowa, struggling with cancer. He and his mother Selena are "going orange," for Leukemia Awareness Month, and his brothers Zachary and Connor are going Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness month. “For those who don’t know Matthew’s story, Matt was diagnosed on May 8, 2012 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). This type of cancer affects children and requires a very long and extensive treatment plan. He will undergo three and a half years of chemotherapy,” states his mother, Selena Barker.
Matthew’s priceless smile and positive attitude inspire others facing challenges, as he battles this illness. “He has faced a roller coaster of emotions, pain, sickness and inner strength that no child should have to endure. And throughout it all has remained a child of joy. When he puts on his big smile and gives me so many hugs, kisses, and love it warms my heart and makes what we have all went through, worth it all,” Selena states. Matthew’s brothers, Zachary and Connor support their brother, and pray for their brother’s recovery. His father Randy strokes his back and massages his legs when they hurt.
Traveling with his family makes Matthew very happy these days. “We just got back from Branson and he was doing well that he had such a good time. He was so happy this weekend. He also loves cuddle time with me. When I can just lay down with him and hold him he seems to be the happiest. He loves it when he feels well enough to outside and play with his neighbor friends,” Selena remarks. “It doesn’t happen very often so he is in heaven when he feels well enough to play. “
“Matthew's Boy Scout Den delivered presents to the kids at Blank Children's Hospital. One night, we received two big bags full of toys from McKenzie Fortune. Instead of receiving gifts at her birthday party, she asked all the kids to bring a toy in honor of Matthew to be donated to Blank's. Matthew and Mckenzie has known each other since preschool and was Matthew's first crush. What a blessing she is to be only in fourth grade and have a heart for the kids who will have a Christmas spent in the hospital. These toys will also be used all year as many will come and go at Blank's. Thank you Mckenzie, Sweetie! You are a true hero,” states Selena.
"Imagine this headline: "Seven children were mercilessly killed today as their parents watched in horror." Or, imagine if a classroom full of 36 kids was taken hostage today by a known killer. What outrage would this cause? Would flags be lowered to half-staff to pay tribute to the children? Would the president preempt your favorite television program to address a grieving and outraged nation? How many newspapers across the country would lead off the front page with this headline? What would happen if this story repeated itself seven days a week, 365 days a year? Just think about that for one minute.
Seems like a far-fetched story. Yet, it is not fiction. Each and every day in this country at least seven children are mercilessly killed by a murderer known as childhood cancer," Jonathan Agin, Huff Post Impact.
The beautiful aspect of Matthew and his family centers on their desire to give back. Matthew takes part in trials where the research potentially assists other childhood cancer patients. Selena Barker explains, “He is taking part in a study that will help the future of childhood cancer. The study is organized by Children's Oncology Group (COG), who is an international research group that conducts studies for children with cancer. He is put through several phases that is very carefully documented, blood samples and bone marrow samples are sent to the research group, and his overall care has shown that he has a better chance of getting rid of all the leukemia cells. Clinical studies are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment. Clinical studies also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. So, Matthew and his fellow cancer buddies, are my heroes. They are paving the way for future children to receive the best possible care and find new ways to treat and hopefully, cure childhood cancer. Twenty years ago, when I heard the word, Leukemia, I thought of it as being a death sentence. Because the heroes and brave ones then have given their studies to research groups and many have given their lives, ALL has become a much higher chance of survival and to remain cancer free forever. “
In Addition, the Barker’s champion the cause for childhood cancer and provide support and comfort for children and families suffering with their own life threatening diagnosis, and help raise awareness and money not just for themselves, but for others facing uncertain outcomes.
Matthew copes with the disease in many ways, including a rather fascinating attempt at a partial recreation of the theme from the movie “Miracle of the Cards.”
The 2001 movie starring, Kirk Cameron, Peter Wingfield , Catherine Oxenberg and Richard Thomas, tells the true story of Craig Shergold, a young English boy, who in 1989 developed a brain tumor and set out to find a cure in breaking the Guinness World Record for receiving greeting cards. By broadcasting the request to the world, Craig’s mother brought in 350 million cards, and a reporter, played by Cameron, who finds himself witnessing the actual miracle of Craig’s ultimate healing.
A friend of Matthew’s mother, Selena, suggested she create a miracle of the cards for Matthew, and that’s what she did utilizing Facebook as a medium, and local publicity. Matthew thus far, has collected upward of 200 cards from around the world. He marks locations on a map with pins indicating the origins of all the cards he’s received. Matthew particularly enjoys postcards because he gets a view of where the sender lives.
Matthew is still getting greeting cards and postcards, and anyone can send cards to Matthew at the following address:
104 NE 7th Ct.
Grimes, IA 50111
It helps lift Matthew’s spirits to get cards from caring individuals from around the world. Selena commented that the hospital in England where Craig Shergold was treated occasionally receives cards in the mail even after all those years.
Selena states, “Thank you for those still sending postcards. We are way behind on mapping the locations out, but hope things will slow down soon and we can sit down and stick the pins in the map. Matt loves reading and seeing all the fun places around the world!
I know that there are still a lot of prayer warriors out there and believe me, we can still use them! So, thank you for continuing to keep us in your thoughts, prayers, and affections. We are blessed to have you all getting us through this!
Just a Childhood Cancer fact that Selena posted on Facebook:
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the United States.