Margarita and Jessie Matias: Couple worry about cancer, care for son

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.’”

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