June 1, 2020
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By Gail M. Williams Muleshoe Journal Correspondent Matthew Alarcon, age 17, recently went on a shopping spree at the Galleria in Houston, courtesy of the Make a Wish Foundation. The son of Rick Alarcon and Rhea Gonzales, Matthew played in the 2017 varsity area playoffs for the Muleshoe Mules. He was finishing four months of rehab for a torn ACL, and had gone into Academy Sports for a new pair of running shoes. “All of a sudden, his vision was blurry,” Gonzales said. “It persisted through the weekend.” Matthew was examined by nurse practitioner Linda Bollock, who referred him to Dr. Mark Sherman, a Lubbock ophthalmologist. “That was April 30,”Gonzales said. “That evening turned into the early hours, when we found out about the brain tumor.” Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumor on May 1, 2018. He attended his high school prom before beginning a rigorous round of treatments. Doctors believe Matthew may have been born with the tumor, which grew as he grew. “They weren’t sure what kind it was at first,” Gonzales said. “They determined that it was a pure germinoma calling for the ICE (interactive connectivity establishment) protocol.” Chemotherapy was started, but part of the tumor didn’t respond at all. “After the second round of chemo, it grew,” Gonzales said. Hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluids in the brain, followed, and surgery was performed to drain the fluids. Another surgery to remove the tumor completely resulted in a massive brain bleed. “He lost his ability to open his eyes, move or walk,” Gonzales said. “A big feeding tube had to be inserted.” After six rounds of chemotherapy, Matthew’s condition improved, and Dr. David Sandberg, pediatric neurosurgeon at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, was able to remove the remainder of the tumor, which was a mature teratoma. Matthew finished treatment with 32 rounds of proton radiation in Irving, Texas, from Dec. 4, 2018, through Jan. 19, 2019, to clear up anything microscopic. Throughout treatment, Matthew was taught by homebound teachers in Muleshoe, Irving and Lubbock. Matthew’s oncologist at Southwest Cancer Center contacted the Make a Wish Foundation. Recently, Matthew, along with his mom and dad, were chauffeured by limousine to the Galleria in Houston, where he went on a shopping spree to Best Buy, Dillards and Academy Sports. “I got a Spiderman Game, Madden 20, NBA 2K20 and Call of Duty,” Matthew said. Matthew also replaced a headset that bothered his ears with a more comfortable set. He was able to visit an uncle with his wife in Houston. The highlight of the day may have been reconnecting with Dr. Sandberg and his assistant Emily Meisner over lunch to thank them and the staff at Memorial Hermann Hospital for doing a good job. “After the surgery, in maybe five days, Matthew was able to walk with assistance,” Gonzales said. “It wasn’t long before he was a good as he was when he went in.” As part of the Academy Sports shopping spree, Matthew got new footballs. “I can go to the park and throw a few passes,” he said. “All his blood work is perfectly clear,” Gonzales said. “He’s in remission, his MRIs look great, and he’s going to school full time.” After graduating from high school, Matthew plans to get a job. “He also wants to volunteer at the hospital, and do some public speaking to encourage anyone else going through something similar,” Gonzales said. “A lot of people helped him, and he just wants to give back.” Angelica Torres and Candice Hayes with Make a Wish North Texas were instrumental in making Matthew’s wish come true. “Our foundation kids range in age from 2 1/2 to 18,” Torres said. “A parent, guardian or someone on their medical team refers them if they are battling a critical or life-threatening illness. We are consistently getting referrals submitted. If they meet certain conditions, it all goes to our medical team, ensuring that they do qualify for a wish based on our guidelines. “Matthew’s wish was for a shopping spree in Houston, and to visit people who were important to him over there. Wishes vary depending on the age and interests of the child. We get a lot of Disney World wishes. We have had requests for Hawaii, a playhouse and a vehicle renovation.” Make a Wish North Texas covers 161 counties from the east past Tyler, Texas, and west to El Paso, including Amarillo and the Panhandle. “There’s always something different in our world, but it’s a lot of fun,” Torres said. For more information, visit Make a Wish North Texas at https://ntx.wish.org/

Photo Courtsey of Best Buy and Rhea Gonzales

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