Following recent life saving surgery, Matt Jenkins feels he has a second chance at life. So the Winslow Township resident is now writing a book about his story and his new outlook on life and plans motivational speaking tours in the area.
Jenkins, a health and physical education teacher at Osage Elementary School for a year before an 11-year-stint at Berlin Community School, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December.
His girlfriend at the time had noticed a bump on the back of his head that grew to about the size of a tennis ball. Two years prior, he had hit his head in his kitchen after fainting; that’s when Jenkins remembers the bump first developing. Over the next two years, it grew from the size of a marble to the size of a golf ball and, finally, to a tennis ball. Jenkins ignored advice from friends and family to get the bump checked before eventually listening to his girlfriend.
“I honestly, after all that time, had thought nothing of it because I’m naive.” he recalled. “I’m a guy and don’t really have the health awareness to schedule a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out for my own health. I continued to assume it would eventually go away on its own and just ignored it all that time.”
After he finally scheduled an MRI, the 20-minute meeting with a neurosurgeon Jenkins expected turned into a two hour session where he was informed the bump he had been ignoring was a brain tumor that had now begun to protrude from his skull.
Following a second opinion that confirmed the worst, Jenkins scheduled an appointment for Jan. 12 to have emergency surgery. The next three weeks, Jenkins said, were hell.
“Fear, anxiety, preparing for the fact that I’m probably not going to be awake for another Christmas or another birthday,” he noted. “Before the surgery, I had to go prepare a will, and that’s when it really set in.”
Jenkins spent Christmas, New Year’s and the first week and a half of January trying to enjoy the little things in life and making the best of moments he could spend with his son. He also began to reconnect with old friends and family.
“As friends found out, more and more reached out to talk to me and to see me that I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years, frankly,” Jenkins remembered. “During that two week period, I got together and spoke with friends and family because I obviously didn’t know if I’d ever have that chance again.”
After the successful surgery, Jenkins woke up on what he now considers his second birthday, Jan. 14, and later snapped a picture with his cell phone of a sunset, the first thing he saw upon waking. It now brightens his Facebook page as a reminder to enjoy the little things in life.
The whole experience has left Jenkins with the belief that he has a new purpose in life.
“The biggest takeaway for me was that we’ve let life and excuses build up all this time as reasons to not see each other and speak with one another,” he said. “It took a tumor for me to realize that, but ultimately it changed my life and my perspective immensely.
“The purpose of my life,” he added, “aside from being a father to my son … is to educate and motivate people to be responsible and validate their wellness and their health.”
Jenkins has two motivational speaking dates planned and looks forward to speaking about living life with a positive attitude, something he tries to do each and every day.
“Life is full of challenges, whether big or small,” he concluded. “But it’s not just about the challenge. It’s about having a positive attitude and getting through it.”