Man Cave on Wheels

By Susan Gnann

“I just wanted to have a place to hang out,” said 11-year-old Matthew Fox of Vandalia. He tires easily, struggles with crowds and lots of stimuli, but is still a lover of the great outdoors. His very own camper seemed to be just the right fit and was his Special Wish granted by two local businesses, Colerain RV and Bonbright Distributors, and the Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation (ASW). Matthew has had a tough battle since he was first diagnosed with a rare benign brain tumor just over a year and a half ago.

Matthew had occasionally suffered with headaches. Concerned about the frequency and worsening of Matthew’s headaches, Pam and Greg Fox brought their son to their pediatrician, Dr. Mary Chitwood, who ordered an MRI right away, a move that ultimately saved his vision and maybe his life. Test results indicated a craineophargeoma, a non-malignant tumor, attached to the optic nerve and carotid artery. Surgery was necessary and was scheduled that same week.

“My mind was spinning and I felt so ill, like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” remembered Greg about getting Matthew’s serious diagnosis from Dr. Laurence Kleiner.

Three days after his diagnosis, Matthew underwent eight hours of brain surgery at Dayton Children’s Hospital. The tumor and subsequent surgery were so invasive that Matthew lost significant adrenal and thyroid function, and also much of his peripheral vision. These and other life-long conditions present daily challenges for Matthew.

“The parent kicked in at that point (after seeing him after surgery),” remembered Greg, “and our focus was totally on him and his treatment.”

A follow-up MRI was scheduled three months after the surgery, and unfortunately the news was not good. Matthew’s tumor along with two cysts had regrown and, since surgery was no longer an option, the family had to find an alternative treatment.

The diligent efforts of Pam led to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Dr. Thomas Merchant, who agreed to test and treat Matthew. They decided on proton radiation which is only performed at a limited number of clinics. The family settled on a clinic in Jacksonville, FL and a new normal of a divided family with one parent with Matthew while the other stayed at home with the couple’s other 5 children.

The radiation treatments and time spent away from home were grueling, but as Greg recalled, “not every day was bad”. While staying at the Ronald McDonald House, Matthew met and threw football with Blake Bortles, the starting quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. This, along with being Blake’s special guest at the Jaguars game the following week were definitely the “highlights” of Matthew’s time in Florida.

When David Seyer, the executive director for A Special Wish – Dayton Chapter got Matthew’s referral, he was excited about the prospect of granting such a unique wish.

“I don’t think we have ever had a child wish for a camper before and we were up to the challenge,” said Dave of Matthew’s wish.

Connecting with the community plays such an integral part in ASW’s ability to grant wishes. Dave immediately began to reach out to local businesses to see how this wish could be fulfilled.

“When I heard about Matthew and that his wish was to go camping with his family, I wanted to be involved. It’s obvious that Colerain RV is in the ‘Family Fun’ and ‘Making Memories’ business so this was a natural for us to join A Special Wish and help make his wish come true,” said Steve Jung, general manager of Colerain RV in New Carlisle.

Additional funding was made possible by Dayton’s Bonbright Distributors who has been partnering with ASW for almost two years.

“We cannot say enough good things about A Special Wish and their staff,” said Greg Fox. “We are just so grateful to Colerain RV. It felt like they were just as excited as we were!” Greg and Pam expressed their thanks to Bonbright Distributors & Five Rivers MetroParks for their generosity, as well.

Matthew will continue regular visits to St. Jude’s for scheduled monitoring and testing for the next five years. Currently, the tumor is stabilized, but the damage it has caused affects Matthew’s daily life significantly, though it doesn’t stop him from enjoying his new camper. The family is planning a spring trip with the new camper that sleeps 8 (just the right amount for his family), but in the meantime, Matthew is using it as place to call his own. The camper sleeps 8, just the right amount for this family, and Matthew Fox gets his very own “man cave on wheels” to enjoy for many years.