Matthew-before-and-after

When the doctor says it’s cancer, life can turn into a blur. Fighting cancer is a challenging journey that no one should walk alone, and especially not a child. That experience, the one that takes place between the moment of diagnosis and the day you hear, “you’re in remission,” typically depends on the quality of the healthcare institution where treatments are administered.

For the youngest residents of Southwest Florida, there’s nowhere better than Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers for pediatric services and oncology. At least, that is what Matthew Singleton’s family will tell you about their experience.

Following his diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the tender age of two, the family headed to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for Matthew’s care. “Never in my life have I encountered medical staff like what they have in place at Golisano. That is a fact,” said Matthew’s mother Lisa. “We have had the opportunity to experience other pediatric oncology units in different states and I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Golisano is hands down the best pediatric oncology team around,” Lisa, said. “They took care of us and got to know us as people. Not just as a patient, but they knew the ins and outs of our family.”

During the next three-and-a-half years of treatments, Matthew and his family grew to see the hospital as a home away from home. “At some point in your child’s cancer journey, you are going to be hospitalized a lot. For us this mainly occurred at the outset of treatment, where Matthew was hospitalized for almost a month solid,” explained Lisa.

“Once we got past the initial shock and Matthew went into remission, he lived an extremely normal life throughout the remainder of treatment. He went to school, played baseball, played with friends, swam in the pool all the time… I am grateful that the treatment and protocol allowed him to continue living his life and to still be a kid,” she added.

The doctors, nurses, and support staff at Golisano Children’s Hospital worked tirelessly every day to provide all their patients with the comfort, support, and care that they deserve. “The team was always available, no matter what time and what the issue was,” Lisa said.

The experienced, professional team at Golisano Children’s Hospital provides highly specialized services to children in the Southwest Florida community, including its fast-responding emergency department, behavioral health, surgery and intensive care, orthopedics, cancer treatment, cardiology and more. The caliber of these healthcare services matches the same standards of excellence as several nationally renowned cancer institutions, allowing parents and families to stay close to home for care.

For some, the issue of payment can create a barrier that prevents young kids from accessing the life-saving pediatric and oncology services they need most. Barbara’s Friends, Golisano’s cancer fund, exists to ease the financial strain of the healthcare setting for families who need it most.

“I would encourage anyone and everyone to donate to this cause. It is life-changing,” said Lisa. “Families walking through pediatric cancer are already carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, and Golisano Children’s Hospital is the only pediatric cancer center in Southwest Florida. If it did not exist, the children here would have to be treated in Tampa or Miami. Families would be torn apart, jobs would be lost, financial hardship would be impossible to overcome.”

“Golisano allowed my husband and I to keep our jobs and our home. It allowed our two children to stay in the same schools they knew and loved. It allowed us to stay close to relatives who could help us during Matthew’s treatment. And it allowed us to maintain a normal life for his brother,” she said.

One way that Barbara’s Friends offsets the cost of pediatric and oncology services is through its annual fundraiser, Clips for Cancer. During this lighthearted event, young cancer patients from Golisano Children’s Hospital take a razor to the heads of prominent leaders from the Southwest Florida community.

Matthew will participate in the virtual Clips for Cancer event and will shave the head of Chief Bill Dalton from the Sanibel Police Department on Friday, September 25. After losing his brother to cancer this year, Chief Dalton decided to take a stand against childhood cancer by going bald.

“I would like to take part in this to support all the children who are bravely fighting cancer,” Chief Dalton said. “Cancer took my brother earlier this year and my sister and mother in law are survivors. I know the fight can be overwhelming for families and hopefully I can help.”

To make a donation, please visit the Clips for Cancer donation page by clicking here.