In April 2023, Bruce Matthews attended our gala, right in the middle of his treatment for cancer.
Springtime is always a busy season for Bruce—working around his barn, chopping wood and mowing grass on his 10 acres of land in Ada. But May 2022 was different. Bruce, 63, began feeling fatigued, way more than usual. Then came dramatic weight loss and irregular bowel movements by late summer. “That’s when I knew something was wrong,” he says. A heart attack survivor, Bruce visited the ER in early fall thinking he may need a stent, but doctors immediately realized he was very sick. On September 18, 2022, Bruce was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He and his wife, Candace, cried for 15 minutes. “And that was it,” Bruce says. “Now I was fighting.” By October, Bruce was getting treatment at Corewell Health Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion— chemotherapy, beginning a four-day treatment every other Tuesday, 21 treatments in total. But Bruce never had a down day. He refused to give up hope, saying to Candace, “If those kids at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital across the street can do this, I can do it.”
“I just didn’t believe this is how I was supposed to go out. There was just no way.”
Everyone from the receptionists to the nurse techs and physicians rallied around Bruce, providing what he called an “impeccable” experience. Dr. Sako, Dr. Chung and Dr. Wright were Bruce’s main physicians, providing answers along the way. “I can’t imagine not having them in my corner,” Bruce adds. “Nothing but great care.” Bruce and Candace also found strength in the village of prayer warriors that surrounded them— supporting his relentless fight. The support, the smiles, the pats on the back—all of it kept Bruce going. “I can give them a 100% rating,” Bruce says.
In September 2023, nearly one year after his initial diagnosis, Bruce had Whipple surgery, which is often used to treat pancreatic cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the pancreas. Surgeons at Corewell Health removed Bruce’s small intestine, gall bladder and the head of his pancreas. Initial testing post-surgery revealed zero cancer. These results, according to Bruce’s care team, were “unprecedented.” Bruce Matthews’ cancer journey started in West Michigan—and it never went anywhere else. “I can’t imagine having to travel every two weeks to Chicago or wherever it would have been,” he says. “It was only a 15-minute drive downtown,” he says. “I’m grateful.” Today, Candace still has her husband, three kids still have their dad, granddaughter, Rosalyn, still has her “Poppy” and Corewell Health has another patient who inspires us with his sense of humor, tenacity and unrelenting joy.
Corewell Health Foundation West Michigan