Matthew ‘Enjoy the Day’

There have been eight children in our family and each one of them has  their own unique story. Matthew’s story had a strange twist from the  start. On January 1, 1980 my wife had a miscarriage of a baby that was  due to be born in the following June. On June 4, 1980 my father, Lyle Burton Foster, past away suddenly from a heart attack, and my wife, who should have been having the baby about that time, instead conceived a child. The following February 23, on what would have been my father’s birthday, the child my wife had conceived at the time of his passing. Our new son was named Matthew Lyle Burton Foster. My father was left handed and Matthew our only child that was left handed. As Matthew grew up he demonstrated some of the same artistic skill level that my father had clearly shown. I used to joke with Matthew that I wondered if I was raising my own father.

Roll forward 15 years and on December 17, 1996, what started out as a normal day, became the day that changed our lives forever. My wife took Matthew to the doctor for a check-up of what they had previously thought was just a cyst. I was at lunch with a client and at about 1:30 I received a phone call that she had taken Matthew to the hospital for some tests. By 5:00 we had met a number of doctors and we were introduced to two Oncologists and learned what their specialty was. We also learned how to spell Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Two days later we did a biopsy and on December 27 Matthew started a heavy schedule, four days at a time, of Chemotherapy. We spent the next 25 months going mainly to Roswell Park and also to Women and Children’s Hospital. In March 1998 the scans did not show any cancer and we were elated. It was short period of elation as in May the cancer came back. This time a different protocol was used but it was not able to stop the growth. In September we went on our Make-A-Wish trip and then on December 7 we went to Roswell and received the message we never wanted to hear. Dr. Smith said that “there is nothing more we can do, we will make Matthew as comfortable as possible”.

Of course we did not want to accept that news and immediately had a fundraiser to help with what were projected to be a very expensive option for what we now call the “Miracle Cure”. We raised a significant amount of money but the cure never materialized and Matthew lost his battle with cancer on January 29, 1999.

At the wake we met a number of people that Matthew had had an impact on and we were amazed by the stories we heard. He had attended Catholic school up to eighth grade and we heard many wonderful stories from them about Matthew. He then went to Iroquois High School in his freshman year. He had been diagnosed in the early part of his Sophomore year and for the majority of his 25 months of treatment he could not attend school at Iroquois but we had so many of his peers at Iroquois tell us story after story of how Matthew had been a positive influence on their lives.

At the funeral homily our Priest told a couple of stories about Matthew and how they had talked just a couple of weeks before he passed away. He told the Priest that it really bother him that people worried and complained about such insignificant items such as his sisters arguing about “you have my shoes”, or to put it on a adult level, “you put a dent in the fender” or “the DOW is down 200 points”. People just did not know enough to enjoy all of the wonderful things they should be enjoying every day.

From our Fundraiser we had money left over and we established a foundation in his memory. In his short life Matthew had such a positive effect on so many people that we wanted to continue that a positive effect on families in Matthew’s memory. Based on what Matthew had told the Priest the slogan for the Matthew Foster Foundation is “Enjoy The Day” and our mission is to Assist Western New York families of Children with Cancer. The assistance we provide is in many forms. The Foundation will pay a mortgage, utility, rent payments, gift cards for food and gas, co-payments, car repair, trips and many more. Since we started we have continued Matthew’s positive influence to over 300 families that we have assisted.

In the unfortunate case of a child losing their battle with childhood cancer we assist with the final arrangements. We have talked to a number of the families that have lost a child and have discussed how their situation is unique to each person. There are never any magic words of comfort for someone loses a child but we have found out that it is helpful to listen and discuss the situation instead of avoiding the conversation. It may be uncomfortable to the listener but very helpful to the family that has suffered the loss.

If you are interested in more information you can find us at

Remember, Enjoy The Day.

Message to share with other families:

The main message is to enjoy every day as the best you can. I have put a little twist on the slogan we have and that is “if you are having a bad day then you are just doing it wrong”.

How do you keep your child’s memory alive:
Many ways, the main way of course the foundation we have in his memory. We also have a Matthew Foster Memorial Basket Ball (girls) tournament every year at Iroquois High School. I can’t imagine I have had a day in the time since Matthew passed away that I didn’t talk about him. I also tell Matthew daily that I love him and I miss him.

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