Matt Cwiertny 's family and friends are working to raise $60,000 in Matt's name through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walks and Crowdrise's support. If we raise $60,000, we will be able to direct the funds to an LLS researcher who is working to find cures for Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) induced lymphomas. While researchers know there is a connection between EBV and lymphoma, they are not sure how EBV causes lymphoma and have not found a way to effectively treat EBV or NK T-cell lymphoma, which Matt suffered from.
Matt was a 23 year old graphic designer for Marshall Advertising, who loved Galaxy soccer, the Flight of the Conchords, The Dandy Warhols, Jack’s Mannequin, and Will Ferrell movies, when he got a bad case of mono. We thought nothing of it until six months later when Matt started getting extraordinarily high fevers, his blood pressure dropped, and his blood counts cratered. His doctors were confounded, especially when they concluded it was not mono. It was only after he went into respiratory failure that his doctors at USC learned he suffered from EBV induced Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (EBV-HLH), a blood disorder affecting only 1 of every 1,000,000 persons. While EBV-HLH is not cancer, it acts and is treated like a cancer. The disorder destroys healthy blood cells, and is treated with chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant, if necessary. EBV-HLH often induces lymphoma, which it did in Matt. One month after his EBV-HLH diagnosis, Matt learned he was battling NK T-Cell lymphoma, one of the most aggressive and least researched blood cancers there is.
In December 2008, Matt received his bone marrow transplant. While it temporarily put him in remission, his lymphoma returned in February 2009, and in June 2009, Matt learned it had returned in the form of an inoperable brain tumor. After chemo failed to put him in remission, Matt began radiation treatment. Before finishing it, Matt was readmitted to the City of Hope in late September 2009. At that time, Matt was in a weakened state, with his EBV levels extraordinarily high and debilitating his liver and kidneys. Unfortunately, the doctors were unable to administer any treatment that could reverse the impact of the EBV on Matt’s vital organs, and at midnight on October 3, 2009, he passed away with us surrounding him.
Matt handled his illness with grace and humor, never asking "why me?" He lived life to the fullest and for that reason, we want to keep his memory alive