“ We can all help others by letting people know about our experiences to help people who are going through what we have went through as brain tumor patients and survivors.
Matt Marciano is a mAss Kicker hailing from New Jersey, two-time survivor and NY Jets supporter. As a middle school teacher and Adjunct College Professor, this caring teacher likes to find ways to pay it forward each day and to help the youth of today empower themselves. We are honored to share our interview with Matt with you today.
mK: How did you find out about your diagnosis?
MM: I was first diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in June of 2015, after having a MRI that was ordered by my primary care doctor and after seeing a neurosurgeon that my primary care doctor recommended me to see the next day. The neurosurgeon confirmed that it was a benign brain tumor and that I needed surgery to remove it. My brain surgery took place in July of 2015. I also did in-patient and then out-patient physical, occupational and cognitive rehabilitation until Mid-August of 2015.
mK: What were your symptoms?
MM: I began to see spots in my vision, felt a little dizzy and tired a lot and would occasionally have migraines combined with nausea. I also began to have stomach pain, in addition to backache and also had ringing in my ears, particularly my right ear, which was later attributed to tinnitus. The MRI revealed that the tumor had taken up a large portion of my head and if it was not removed, could have impacted my vision later in life.
mK: Are you involved with any organizations? If you are, what do you do?
If you aren’t at this stage, are there any that you would like to get involved with and why?
MM: I am not involved in any organizations at this time, but would like to get involved in brain tumor organizations, especially mAss Kickers, to share my story of survival with other brain tumor survivors and patients. I am looking to getting more active in my local Church as a Lector, as I enjoy going to Church each week and want to give back to my parish community as well.
mK: What motivates you?
MM: The thing that motivates me the most is helping others. I am a middle school Social Studies teacher and an Adjunct College Professor, and I always enjoy helping my students feel that they can accomplish anything in their life and that I care about them and want them to succeed. I have been in education as a teacher for the past twelve years teaching middle school students, and college students for the past six and a half years. It is a career that I really enjoy because I feel that I can give back to others. I believe in the idea of paying it forward – when I do something nice for someone, I do not expect anything in return, except that I hope the person finds a way to give back to others, just as I gave back to them.
mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
MM: My personal heroes are my Mom, Dad and my sister, who always care about me, and were extremely supportive to me throughout and after my surgery. My other heroes are my primary care doctor and my neurosurgeon who both saved my life. My primary care doctor for having a MRI ordered after I mentioned my symptoms to her and my neurosurgeon who performed the surgery. My other hero is my Grandpa, who is very similar to me in personality and someone who I also admire very much. My heroes are also my eighth grade students, that I am very fortunate and blessed to teach Social Studies to each day.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
MM: What makes me laugh is watching a lot of funny comedy shows and movies. I am a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm and my favorite movies that make me laugh and I know almost line by line are A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation. The only thing that can make me cry or angry is when my NY Jets lose football games, especially the last game they played last season that they lost and missed the playoffs because they lost!
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
MM: I would say I find teaching middle school and college one of the most interesting things I have ever done. In addition to that, at eighteen years old, I got involved in politics in the town I used to live in. At twenty years old, I ran the local Town Council campaign as the Campaign Manager for two candidates running for office. In addition to doing that while in college, I was also Co-Chairman of the Local Cable Access TV Station, Chairman of the Cable TV Contract Committee in town, and served three years as a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (one year as Vice-Chairman), making me the youngest person in that town’s history to serve on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. I find all of that as some of the most interesting things I ever have done as I proved at a young age, that young people can also play an important and productive role and give back to government and the people of their community in which they live.
mK: What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
MM: I think the toughest challenge a survivor faces is the rehabilitation after the surgery and the surgery itself. Memory issues also impacted me a bit after my surgery, but I have been very thankful to have had a great rehabilitation after my surgery, great family support and getting my life back to normal. I was also a little nervous after having my first MRI since I left the hospital, a few months ago. Just the thought of the MRI made me nervous, but luckily the MRI results came back with no signs of the tumor growing back.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
MM: My guilty pleasure is I am an avid football fan and love the NY Jets. I am a life-long Jets fan and love watching football every Sunday during football season.
mK: If you could live the life of any person (alive or dead – yourself excluded) who would it be + why?
MM: I would have loved to be a U.S. President, if I could live the life of any person. One of my favorite Presidents is Theodore Roosevelt, as he was able to have great leadership ability when he led the country and I would love to have gone back in time to experience being President and making the decisions that he had to make. I would also like to be NY Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles. He is another leader that his players want to play for and respect and I would love to stand on the sideline with a headset and get to call out plays to the offense and defense just like Coach Bowles gets to do!
mK: What is next on your agenda?
MM: I want to continue to raise awareness by helping people who are going through a brain tumor diagnosis and to continue to find ways to give back and to help other people, which is something that I strived to do before my surgery and would like to do now after my surgery.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
MM: I was a survivor of leukemia when I was born. I had an early form of leukemia and survived it. So, I have survived two life-threatening diseases, between surviving leukemia as a child and surviving my benign brain tumor surgery last year. I feel that I have been put on this earth for a reason and that my life has been spared twice, to help people and give back to as many people as possible.
mK: What is your favorite song and why?
MM: My favorite song is from The Script and Will I.AM. called “Hall of Fame.” I used it for my student’s theme song a few years ago, as it is an inspiring song that lets you know you are all bound for doing great things in your life as long as you help and inspire others. I often played this song, as I recovered from my brain tumor surgery.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
MM: Please make sure if you notice any of the warning signs that I did, to see your primary care doctor, who may then recommend that you get a MRI and refer you to a neurosurgeon. Because I mentioned to my primary care doctor all of the warning signs I had that I mentioned earlier (spots in vision, tinnitus in my ears, migraines, etc.) she ordered the MRI that found my brain tumor, which saved my life. Loved ones need to be of support to family members going through surgery and help out after the person rehabilitates from the surgery. Any time you can spend with your loved one, especially while they recuperate from the surgery is appreciated and helpful to know that you care about them and that you are there for them.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
MM: We have all been through an emotional roller-coaster by having tumors, but we should be proud of our accomplishments as survivors and work together to get more people aware of what is like to have a brain tumor and how to survive the surgery. I truly believe we are all on this earth for a reason and we can all help others by letting people know about our experiences to help people who are going through what we have went through as brain tumor patients and survivors.
Matt Marciano, behind-the-scenes football ‘coach-in-training’, leukemia and brain tumor survivor, comedy lover and teacher extraordinaire. Thank you for your time, and for sharing your words and thoughts with us today!