Judy and Matt Scott
Impressed. It describes most people who have met or known Matt Scott. Whether
it's because he effortlessly repaired someone's car, because -
after only four years experience - he can handle horses with a seemingly
magic touch, or because he seems to carry his church on his back, people
marvel at what he can do. He shows a firm and caring devotion to his children
with which parents empathize, and for a man who quips that he began living
at age 40, he seamlessly blends youth and a magnanimous maturity to which
people respond warmly.
He is a man who managed to find work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
as a limited welder, welding high pressure plates in 1989, and rose through
the ranks, avoiding layoffs when they came. He is a man who, independent
of a network or an apprenticeship, took the necessary night classes, passed
the mandatory tests and attained the required qualifications to do the
impossible and rise to general foreman in less than 11 years -- a shipyard
record. He continued to dazzle his superiors, performing so well that
he earned the select position of multi-trade supervisor -- eligible to
serve as foreman over other workers not in his own field -- and was hand-picked
to oversee submarine tender repair in Guam, where, in his spare time,
he made 30 dives in those few months alone, excluding the other cold water
dives he made in Washington that year.
He is a man who can no longer scuba dive. He is a man who can no longer
train horses. He is a man who can no longer help out at his wife's
"Mom'n'Pop" Belfair Cafe. He is a man who can no longer
sleep peacefully or retain food he has eaten.
THE ADVENTURES COME TO A HALT
Matt Scott in the Shark's Pit.
Cancun, March, 2000
In July of 2001, Matt began feeling especially run down; in August he visited
the infirmary at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and the doctor there
diagnosed wheezing. Matt went for a more comprehensive evaluation at Group
Helath Cooperative of Puget Sound in Washington where he was diagnosed
with allergies, prescribed suitable medication and sent on his way. The
medication did nothing, so he stopped taking it. By September, his rib
cage was unusually sore, and minor wheeziness was evolving into increasingly
difficult breathing. He finally returned to Group Health on September
25 and had a chest x-ray; Dr. Alan Searle, his primary physician, found
a moderate left pleural effusion. Matt's chest cavity was, so to speak,
leaking. The examining pathologist, Dr. Michael Cook, recommended a CT scan.
On September 27, 2001, Matt had a CT scan, confirming the pleural effusion
and clearly showing collapse of the left lung; the base of Matt's
left lung had ceased to function. The doctors were mystified as to what
was causing the symptoms.
On September 28, Dr. Searle requested a thoracentesis; an 18-gauge catheter
was inserted into Matt's back. About 450 ccs of colored, but clear
fluid were withdrawn and sent to pathology for analysis, and Matt was
prescribed erythromycin in case of pneumonia as well as Tylenol and ibuprofen
for the pain.
On October 1, Matt discussed the incoming results of the pathological report
with Kathleen Thomas, a physician's assistant at the clinic. She advised
him that while the cells in the pleural fluid were atypical, they were
not cancerous. Further immunohistochemical staining at the pathology lab,
however, revealed something entirely different.
Matt aboard Tiger 2001
On October 5, after a referral from Dr. Searle and a confirming diagnosis
from Dr. Samuel Hammar of Diagnostic Specialties Laboratories at Harrison
Memorial Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, Matt Scott sat down with Dr.
Ann Williams as she explained to him what his new and confirmed diagnosis
of malignant pleural mesothelioma meant. Matt had been hoping that he
might still be able to receive some good news, some further treatment,
and then be able to return to his daily routine of work at the shipyard,
exercise and maintenance work on Judy's Belfair Cafe. Dr. Williams
told him anything but that.
HAUNTING MEMORIES OF A FATHER
Matt learned of the median survival rate for patients like himself. He
learned what potential treatment options were available to him. He learned
that mesothelioma was closely linked to asbestos exposure. His father
had suffocated to death almost twenty years before from asbestosis, after
just retiring from a career as a pipecoverer. Matt's father had gone
quickly but suffered much, and Matt remembered how much time he had spent
around his asbestos-covered father.
Matt can recall that he "was all over Dad. He was always lifting me
and goofing around with us two boys." One instance stood out for
Matt. "Mom was brushing [Dad] off with a broom, I was about four
years old and was using my hands to help. She told me to get out of there
because I was getting all dusty."
Matt knew then that a fate similar to his father's was staring him
in the face. All his exercise, all his strength, all his commitment to
his family and those around him, all his faith seemed to pale in comparison
to this tumor that was growing inside him and rapidly encasing his lung,
crushing it, and suffocating him.
AN OPTION TO LIVE
Dr. Williams could understand the fear that Matt was facing. She also understood
that he needed to seek aggressive therapy from an experienced surgeon
in as little time as possible. She referred him to Dr. Eric Vallieres,
a renowned thoracic surgical oncologist at the University of Washington
Medical Center. A member of the Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma
Applied Research Foundation (
MARF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma
as a life-ending disease, Dr. Vallieres is one of the foremost treaters
of mesothelioma in the nation.
Matt hiking the Tin Mine
in Washington State, 2000
Dr. Vallieres examined Matt on October 8, and found that Matt qualified
for his most aggressive treatment plan: multi-modality therapy, a medley
of chemotherapy, surgery and radiaton.
The surgery is the premier treatment available today in the field of mesothelioma
treatment -- an extra-pleural pneumonectomy. In it, Dr. Vallieres removes
the patient's affected lung and pericardial sac and replaces the old,
pericardial sac with a new one made of Kevlar®.
In mid-October, Matt began his chemotherapy. As he said, "[It] looks
like nausea and night sweats are going to be a part of life for right
now." He finished up his first round of therapy, and began his next
two-week round on Monday, November 12, in an effort to shrink the tumor
and secure as much of a chance for a successful surgery as possible.
For now, all Matt can do is rest. His superiors at the shipyard tell him
that he can come in whenever he wants. He is, however, subject to his
weakened body's whims. He has lost 20 pounds from his 181-pound frame,
and he spends a great deal of his time nauseated. Breathing, alone, is
a chore; work is impossible. If he cannot get into work to remain on the
payroll, and if he cannot attend his continuing-education classes, he
will lose his hard-earned qualifications and his livelihood.
REBUILDING A LIFE
In addition to not being able to work for himself, Matt could no longer
cook or perform the necessary plywood and sheetrock work for Judy's
cafe. Between that and the time that Judy has had to spend with him, Matt
and Judy lost the cafe. Additionally, Matt could no longer assist Horse
Rescue Mission, a program for which he and Judy raise funds to retrain
and rehouse abused and neglected horses. Jobs that once took Matt a day
now take a week. Jobs that took a week now take several months. Matt is
slowing down, and the world is not.
Matt Scott and his family, 2001
Also fading are their plans for a house. Matt and Judy were going to build
their first house together and already had plans that were engineer-stamped
in June. By now, they should have been laying the foundations, having
received the permits in September. Permits, however, expire, and as changes
in Matt's body demolished a concrete timetable for construction, Matt
and Judy indefinitely postponed obtaining permits to actually build.
Jereme, Matt's stepson and also a long-time dive partner, has helped
out enormously in the past weeks despite his own work schedule. Matt worries
about his daughter, Alisha, and Judy's son, Griff. Both in their late
teens, they are taking these recent developments especially hard.
Matt remains humble, thankful for all the support he has received from
family, friends and distant well-wishers. He feels blessed that he was
able to enjoy Christmas services with his church family and then a dinner
with his family at home. He is trying to help Judy in any way that he
possibly can with the yard and her rental properties, but he is the first
to admit that his strength is still greatly diminished.
Matt finished up his fourth round of chemotherapy in late January and has
been trying to work at the shipyard, so that he won't have to reimburse
coworkers or the yard for sick leave wages or time. However, with his
health, he can only squeeze in three to four days a week of work, and
after that, he spends his entire weekend in bed. He is complaining of
chest/heart pain and is suffering from fatigue. He has a numbness in his
legs, and he has just been battling a small bout with flu. He is taking
Vicodin for the pain, and his sweats have returned. Provided his CT scans
from this February showed good news, he will undergo the extra-pleural
pneumonectomy; it's his only shot at life. He is worried because his
pleura thickened between his third and fourth rounds of chemotherapy.
He will consult with Dr. Williams and Dr. Vallieres shortly. He focuses
on his treatment and his family and reminds others of a date in the future:
"Remember that we will need to have a special birthday party on August
On that day, God willing, Matt will celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday.
We will keep you posted on this amazing man's progress.
*** POSTED MARCH 18, 2002 ***
An Update -- 7/23/02
Matt had a terrible Fourth of July. In fact, most other days in July haven't
been very good either. He completed a seven-week regimen five radiation
treatments per week in the beginning of July, and when we spoke with him
on July 23, he was still pushing through the pain. Matt is taking OxyContin
and Prednisone to alleviate the pain, as well as approximately eight other
medications deemed necessary to help him through this agonizing recovery.
Radiation left Matt with third-degree burns on his back, and he cringes
imagining what the treatment inflicted on him internally.
He can barely work anymore, nausea haunts him all day, every day, and he
force-feeds himself to preserve what little strength remains. Judy stays
at home with him to take care of him, and other members from his church
rallied around Matt during his radiation treatments, some even driving
the distance to Tacoma to ensure that Matt made his appointments. It was
a small sacrifice in their eyes to keep this man with them as long as possible.
Matt's weight still falls short of normal, and his voice is hollow
and cracked. When asked what he feels most these days, he replies, "Tired."
We will keep you posted on the progress of this faithful man.
An Update -- 9/9/02
Matt's recovery from his March 18, 2002 surgery has been long and slow.
The burns from the radiation treatments have finally healed. Matt has
not yet been able to return to work. He is still on a significant amount
of pain medication from which the doctors have been weaning him slowly.
He says he spends most of his days resting trying to gain back the strength
and vigor he once possessed. The good news is that his appetite is improving.
He is now only scheduled for follow-up visits with his oncologist every
three months, and at six month intervals with Dr. Vallieres.
An Update -- 6/30/03
Today was a good day for Matt Scott. In fact it was so good he was considering
a horse ride. He's had to switch to a more gentle horse for his rides
because his old horse "Romeo" was too wild. Matt continues his
weekly treatments with Carboplatin/Cisplatin. He has completed his radiation
therapy but sadly reports that much damage was done to his heart. The
location of his tumor was such that the heart could not be protected.
In hindsight Matt says he feels he may have been better off doing without
the radiation but at the time was only doing what he felt would prolong
his life. He has managed to maintain his weight. His shortness of breath
has increased dramatically, he can't walk half a block without gasping
for air. He states that during each month, he gets 8 or 9 good days. It's
then that he's able to help with things like watering the plants.
Judy takes care of everything else, he adds. "She's a trooper".
He takes comfort in the thought that he is approaching his two-year survival
mark. Though he feels his health is declining he maintains his will to
fight this demon within.
For Matt and Judy, maintaining a postive attitude is not a mere abstraction.
They know the importance of keeping a strong immune system. They know
that each tiny stress accumulates and can overload the immune system,
creating a more fertile ground for the advancing tumors. One insult that
can hardly be termed "tiny" is the proposed
Asbestos Trust Fund bill (SB. 1125), which is being pushed by Sen. Hatch and the asbestos tortfeasors. Matt
and Judy think about this bill and the devastating emotional and financial
impact it will have on other mesothelioma patients and their families
who have not yet resolved their legal claims. Matt and Judy can only shake
their heads in disbelief. "How," Matt asks, "can my government
take this radical step to shelter the evil companies who have made by
life a godforsaken nightmare?"
An Update -- 10/17/03
Matt states he is "actually feeling better than I have in a long time.
I can't really remember the last time I felt this good." He completed
Carboplatin and Cisplatin treatments that unfortunately did not effect
the tumor. The tumor has grown slightly. Matt is scheduled to meet with
Dr. Eric Vallieres on October 29, 2003 to determine if there is another
chemotherapy drug that can be tried.
Matt met fellow mesothelioma patient
Paul Douglas who has been receiving Onconase.
Mr. Matthew Scott passed away on July 5, 2004