The Matias family’s daily routine is one steeped in health care issues ranging from caring for an adult son with disabilities to multiple cancer diagnoses.
Margarita Matias, 72, this year had a resurgence of ovarian cancer and said she will now be considered stage 4 for the rest of her life.
Doctors diagnosed her son Ricky Perez, 46, with testicular cancer in 2007. Perez was born with cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities. He is largely nonverbal, only really speaking the word “Mama,” and requires full-time care.
Husband Jessie Matias, 60, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2011. He remains cancer-free after surgery.
They manage, with Margarita Matias taking a leading role in caring for her son while Jessie Matias remains the family’s major source of income, working long hours for the Texas Gas Service on assignments that can sometimes send him to other Texas cities for days at a time.
Margarita’s medical regimen allows her to be on her feet. And a recent checkup on Perez showed that his cancer hasn’t grown or moved since the original diagnosis.
All of it sometimes seems like it could change at a moment’s notice.
“When it starts moving, we’ll have to develop a game plan,” Jessie Matias says.
For Margarita Matias, one of her day’s biggest struggles is bathing her son. As she has gotten older, it has become harder and harder to move him into their home’s bathtub. As she continues to deal with her own cancer diagnosis, she has good days and bad days.
It’s that part of their daily routine that has Jessie Matias most worried that his wife might injure herself. It’s those fears that have often led him to turn down many overtime job assignments outside of Austin.
And without that supplemental income, making their bathroom handicap-accessible remains a dream while home maintenance problems they cannot afford continue to mount.
For months, the family has had to rely on the microwave as the sole way to heat up meals. Margarita Matias admits that she craves a home-cooked meal versus the frozen dinners they must have on a daily basis.
They lack central air, and none of their ceiling fans are operable. And they also lack many of the common conveniences, such as a washer and dryer, smartphones and internet access.
But even with the challenges they face, Margarita Matias said she is resolute to continue to keep her son in their personal care after several bad experiences with health care managed by group homes.
“I’m trying to do my best,” she says. “I sit down and I talk to him. I tell him, ‘Ricky, I’m going to stand by you.’”
The Matias family’s wishes
Bathroom renovation to turn bath into accessible walk-in shower and fix leaky toilet and broken heater; new ceiling fans; twin bed sheets; wheelchair lift for a 2004 Sierra pickup truck; air conditioning/heating repairs to wall units and multiple heaters or new heating and air conditioning system; a gas stove; a washer and dryer; dining room table and seating for four people; cable and internet service; stuffed animals and Tejano music CDs for Ricky; clothing: women’s large tops, size 10-12 pants and women’s 7 1/2 shoes; men’s adult large long-sleeved or button-up shirts; 34 x 33 pants; men’s adult medium tops; adult medium pants with elastic waistbands; men’s 7 1/2 high-top tennis shoes; gift cards to H-E-B, Cavender’s Boot City, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Dart Bowl, Olive Garden and Trudy’s; smartphones; laptop; microwave; trip to California for two for Margarita to visit her aunts; kitchen remodel to create more pantry space; electrical wiring upgrade; DVD player; horror movies; new window for Ricky’s room; tickets to see Pittsburgh Steelers play; dog toys and treats for small dogs; hotel stay as home gets renovated.
Nominated by: CareBox Program, 5555 N. Lamar Blvd. E-111, Austin, Texas, 78751. 512-296-2180, careboxprogram.org
Its mission: To provide free care supplies to cancer patients to help prevent malnutrition, infections and injuries from falls.