While Matt Roberts tried to solve his nagging back pain issues in 2014, the young boxer never imagined the chronic ache was actually a symptom of testicular cancer ravaging his insides.
“That was pretty much what I was focused on for almost a year … I couldn’t sleep, I’d gone to chiropractors and doctors. It just never crossed my mind,” said the now-27-year-old Cochranite. “It’s one of those things – ‘oh, it won’t happen to me.’”
But it did happen to him, and only a few months after joining Rival Boxing Gym Cochrane as one of the original members of the club, the Bow Valley High School graduate learned he had testicular cancer.
“It was a pretty poor prognosis. It was Stage 3,” he recalled, explaining the disease had already started to spread through his abdominal cavity and into his lungs when it was discovered.
Within weeks, Roberts was booked for his first surgery. Four more were to come in short order, along with rounds of chemotherapy. This December, after fighting cancer for more than three years, Roberts received his first official “clean” scan.
“I’m in recovery. Pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s slow going, (but) I’m feeling really good. The body took quite a beating … I’m very fortunate.”
Throughout his cancer ordeal, Roberts said Rival was a place where he could go to forget about the difficulties surrounding his diagnosis.
“I could pop in and see people and get my mind off whatever my situation was at the time,” he said. “(Rival owner) Craig (Wilson) and everyone at the gym has been super supportive. They’ve been a huge support basically for me through my battle.”
Now that he’s on the other side of his journey, Roberts wants to give back to the gym – and to the cause – by shining a light on the most common cancer to strike young Canadian men ages 15 to 29.
He and Wilson have paired up to raise much as $25,000 for testicular cancer-related organizations through the first annual K.O. Cancer charity experience – in which 24 participants will receive personal professional training for 10 weeks before stepping into the ring for a gala boxing event.
“I’m hoping they’re going to get in shape. I hope they really enjoy it,” said Roberts of the unique opportunity for people to raise money and try out the sport at the same time. “Craig knows that I’m really engaged in this and really humbled by the whole experience and really wanting to help any way I can to raise awareness.”
Wilson said he’s proud of Roberts’ rough and tumble attitude through the ups and downs of the last three years and the club wants to do whatever they can to support the cause.
“We want to pay tribute to his courage and persistence,” Wilson said of Roberts. “We see family members and friends fighting cancer and we all want to support them.”
Those interested in signing up for the K.O. Cancer charity experience can learn more at www.rivalboxingcochrane.com.