Matthew Hunter, a Jacksonville man in his early 30s, was diagnosed with stage IV Esophageal Adenocarcinoma in February 2014. Determined to leave a lasting legacy, Hunter has decided to travel the around the United States and Peru, filming individuals in their different environments.
“I haven’t been satisfied with the legacy I’m leaving behind,” said Hunter.
Hunter is a full-time student at Florida State College at Jacksonville finishing up his Associate of Arts degree in December 2015.
Hunter is a military veteran and spent 6 years in the Army. Joining when he was only 19, in 2008 Hunter was sent to Iraq where he spent a year on tour.
Hunter has had a rough life, losing both of his parents to a terrible car accident when he was only 11 years old. Growing up with a Baptist Preacher for a father and his mother being a Sunday school teacher, Hunter grew up having a lot of faith in god. After losing both of his parents, Hunter spent the rest of his childhood in the custody of his grandfather and began questioning his faith.
When Hunter was first diagnosed in 2014, he spent a few months spiraling out of control as all of his “worries went away,” he said. Hunter no longer had to worry about his job, bills he had to pay or his future. Originally being told that treatment was not an option, Hunter’s doctors told him he needed to find a hospice.
He said he wasn’t scared or upset when he received the diagnosis, that the hardest part was seeing the look on the faces of his family and friends when they heard the news. While Matthew was preparing for the worst, luckily, his oncologist offered to try a different form option of treatment, and thought it would be worth a shot to try chemotherapy. Spending sometimes 7 hours a day in an infusion chair Hunter was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted.
After undergoing his first round of chemo, Hunter’s cancer was in remission. He all of a sudden became “very focused on what I wanted with the little time I had left.” Hunter hopped on a train and traveled around the United States, stating that the “coolest thing by far was meeting people and watching people in their environment.”
Spending his life 3 months at a time between PET scans and with no current cure to his disease, Hunter will have to spend the rest of his life undergoing this tiring cycle until either his body stops responding to the chemotherapy or a miraculous cure is found. His diagnosis has compelled him to undergo a lot of soul searching and he is determined to leave something behind to be remembered by.
Hunter plans to take another trip around the United States and continuing down into Peru while he films his trip and interviews the individuals he meets with questions about life. “I want the subjects of the interview to drive the narrative of the film,” said Hunter.
Going on a trip of this nature while terminally ill will force Hunter to come face to face with many challenges as his body weakens. “You can’t allow fear to take over your life,” said Hunter. He is determined to get through this trip and complete the film.
Hunter has started a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign in hopes of raising the $5,000 required for him to fund this trip. The money will cover various costs from hotel fees to train tickets.
Hunter is determined to take this trip even if he has to do it alone. “I am very hard headed,” said Hunter. “No matter if I am sick or not I can finish this trip.”
Hunter’s sister, Amanda Williams, has her hesitations about him completing this trip alone. She worries that as his health worsens he will begin to lose his strength. She said “he has a steel will” and that “his middle name is Steel so that’s kind of ironic.”
She knows that he is determined to take this trip but that she just hopes he raises enough to bring his friend along with him. She feels safer knowing he has someone there just in case.
“Matthew has a spirit about him that has always been magnetic,” said Williams. She knows Hunter will touch each individual that he meets and wants him to be able to share his story.
Hunter has until October 31, 2015 at 11:07 a.m. to raise the full $5,000 or he looses it all. This might be a scary all-or-nothing concept to most individuals but Hunter says he likes the challenge.
He says he likes “the all-or-nothing aspect of Kickstarter” because that’s the way he lives his life and if he wasn’t able to raise the full $5,000 that he wouldn’t be going on the trip anyways.
Hunter says through this whole process that his biggest lesson has been that you “must realize what’s important now.”