BEECH GROVE, Ind. – At the end of a conversation in his athletic director’s office at Beech Grove High School on Tuesday afternoon, Matt English had a request.
“Please make sure to mention my mom, my dad, my wife, my sister,” he said. “I’ll be fine. But they have helped me so much.”
I wrote their names down in my notebook and looked back at English, sitting behind his desk in a shirt and tie. Just last week, he had to pull up a YouTube clip and take 15 minutes to re-teach himself how to tie his necktie, a task he has performed since he was 12.
There are other things – “small things” he calls them – that have started happening in the last four or five weeks. He forgets where he placed his workout bag, keys or wallet. That never used to happen. English holds out his left hand. It shakes.
“I’m self-conscious about it,” he said. “Sometimes cutting food is hard. I’ve not had (many problems with) balance or dizziness, but tremors are noticeable. My short-term memories are shot. I’ve told coaches, ‘Don’t stop me in the hallway and expect me to remember. Text me. Email me. Leave me a Post-It. Whatever. I won’t remember anything. But all-in-all, it is pretty minor stuff.”
Minor stuff. English, 45, finished off 42 consecutive days of radiation last week for a brain tumor that has returned for a third time in seven years. He was diagnosed in March, right around sectional time. After undergoing chemotherapy in March, April and May, English was delivered a “gut punch” in June.
In a span of several weeks, the tumor had grown from the size of a silver dollar to the size of a baseball.
“My oncologist is great,” English said. “He has this distinctive laugh. But the last time we were talking about the scan, I could tell he was worried. He said, ‘Matt, I’m concerned. It’s growing too fast. We have to get something done.’”
English approached that news as he always has: full-steam ahead. Now that the six weeks of radiation are complete, he will go in Tuesday for five hours of chemotherapy at a higher dosage. The following week, another hour of chemo. Later this month, there will be another scan to see whether the treatment has had a positive impact.
Until then, it is business as usual. The teachers came back to work last week and the students started Thursday. English, going into his 11th season as boys basketball coach at Beech Grove, met with the team Tuesday to start planning for fall workouts.
“On Sunday, I felt like a freshman in high school,” English said. “I felt self-conscious about coming back – and I know it’s not this way because everybody treats me so good – but I felt like everybody was going to be watching or looking. But being around the coaches, the principal, the kids, I found myself energized. That stuff gets me going a bit.”