Cancer treatment gives Lawrence couple reasons to celebrate life

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - New methods of attacking tumors are saving thousands of lives and have given a young Lawrence family two reasons to celebrate life.

Jonathan Mathews will never forget the day Lawrence doctors told him his flu like symptoms were something much more serious.

"They said you need to go to KU Med right away so I went to KU Med all in a day and they said you've got something you've got take care of right away," Jonathan said.

Jonathan had cancer. Specifically, he had Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.. He was treated with chemotherapy, but after a few sessions, it didn't appear to be working.

Jonathan had a choice. "I was told I could either continue with the treatments," he said, "or try something else which was the BMT stuff."

BMT is a blood and marrow transplant. In the past, bone marrow stem cells had to be harvested during a painful surgery. Instead with Jonathan, doctors collected the stem cells from his blood.

Dr. Joseph McGuirk, Director BMT at KU Hospital described the procedure.

"We collect many more stem cells when we perform the procedure in that way," McGuirk said. "That's a good thing for patients because the more stem cells we collect and give them after their chemotherapy, the sooner they recover on all fronts."

After the stem cells were taken, Jonathan underwent extremely high doses of chemotherapy.

Afterwards, his healthy stem cells were injected back into his system which triggers new bone marrow growth.

The procedure saved Jonathan's life and set the stage for Riley to get a little brother.

"It was never like, ‘what if you still have cancer,'" Jonathan's wife, Sharilyn, explained. "It was kind of like when you're done with chemo you won't have cancer and then we're going to have another kid."

Since chemo can damage sperm, Jonathan's sperm was banked prior to receiving any treatments.

Nine months after surviving cancer, Sharilyn gave birth to Greyson.

"A lot of people think that your life is done, you might not be having any more kids," Jonathan said. "I survived and had more kids, so it was just pretty incredible."

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