Meet Taylor, 16-year-old ambitious designer and entrepreneur. Taylor was determined to live life to the fullest, and wanted to be known as “a kid with cancer, never a cancer kid.” She didn’t want cancer to define her. Devastatingly, she passed away after a five year battle with cancer. Sue, her mother, said, “Taylor believed in life that all you need is love, and her memory is indelibly imprinted onto the hearts of everyone she left behind.”
In 2003, Taylor was diagnosed with Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, a malignant type of cancer of the cartilage. Sue remembered, “all day long I had felt frozen and trapped in time, not hearing, seeing, or feeling much of anything, unable to process what was happening. My husband, Bob, was the strong one from day one. He turned his fear, grief and sadness into drive and determination to save Taylor, against the odds. He researched all night, found doctors worldwide to speak with and pushed every button he could. As a result, Taylor outlived her prognosis 4 years.”
Taylor was originally diagnosed with osteosarcoma and started treatment immediately. The protocol that the initial hospital performed did not work and they gave up on treating Taylor. Sue, Taylor’s mom, decided to switch her to another hospital. When Taylor relapsed, three and a half years later, they found out that she was misdiagnosed. The family sought out for several more opinions at many U.S. hospitals and when treatments were no longer available they took her to Germany and the United Kingdom.
Two days before Taylor’s graduation party, she began losing her hair. Determined to make sure that everything was perfect for her daughter, Sue recalls asking another friend’s mother what she should do. On a moment’s notice, she [the other parent] purchased bandanas for all the girls to wear so that Taylor would feel more comfortable at the party. A few days later Taylor asked her dad to shave her head and Taylor didn’t shed a single tear.
In an excerpt from her book, “Paint Your Hair Blue, A Celebration of Life with Hope for Tomorrow in the Face of Pediatric Cancer” Sue writes: “Taylor’s life was not only about what she accomplished, but also about what she left behind. Her boundless optimism, even at the bleakest moments, and her zest for life, even as death neared, taught me more about love than I thought there was to know. Taylor believed in life that all you need is love, and her memory is indelibly imprinted onto the hearts of everyone she left behind.”
During an interview, Taylor talked about how she had received generosity from her friends. “When I was first in the hospital, my room turned into a garden with so many flowers.” She received so many stuffed animals and even a song was written in her honor, “Everything’s okay when you’re with Tay.” This outpouring of generosity helped Taylor get through the first couple of months in treatment and helped her feel just a little bit better. She was so inspired by these gestures that she started a business while undergoing treatment, called “Tay-Bandz.” She created accessories that she would sell and then donated the money to pediatric cancer research. Taylor didn’t want anyone else to go through cancer so she said, “knowing that they may be getting treatments that I funded the research for, it’s really great.” The foundation has been renamed to “The Taylor Matthews Foundation” and is dedicated to raising awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research.
For more information about Taylor and her foundation: http://taylormatthewsfoundation.org
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