Friends of 32-Miles: Matt Gray

Meet Matt, my husband. With any strong marriage there have been ups and downs but he has always been there, by my side. Where I am artistic, he likes numbers. Where I am free spirited, he is calculated. Where I am cluttered, he is ordered. Where I am weak, he is strong. We balance each other- complete the other. I love him fiercely and know without a doubt he does the same. I asked him to write a piece for Friends of 32-Miles. I asked him to share what it was like to be a caregiver to a cancer survivor- how exercise helped pull us through the hard times. 

I can honestly say I have never considered writing a blog post, so bear with me as I stumble through a few years of thoughts regarding nutrition/training and being the spouse of a cancer survivor. 

(I was told I couldn’t talk about how awesome my wife is, so I won’t mention how AWESOME my wife is)

First thought on nutrition, exercise and being a spouse of a cancer survivor…. they all suck!

Second thought on nutrition, exercise and being the spouse of a cancer survivor…. they all are life changing!

The day after bilateral mastectomy.

We each face obstacles that are difficult and you will never be able to relate to someone unless you have stood in their shoes. (Which you haven’t and never will). That’s where grace, understanding and perspective become important. Give a little today. You never know who needs it. 

Sorry, rambling..

I remember running one afternoon a couple of years ago. I was probably at the best level of fitness I had been since I was 23. (At the time I was 31). Fresh off 45 lbs. of weight loss and feeling great. The run was driven by my wife’s, at the time, first cancer diagnosis. My thoughts strayed from this, to that, to what if, to why us. By the time I was done running I concluded its time to be “stronger than ever.”  This somewhat became my motivating phrase as I started down a new and unexpected path in life. Fitness and nutrition became even more important daily. I found out a lot about myself. 

  1. When facing life threatening events, you find a new strength you never thought possible. (tasks and responsibilities that once seamed difficult become simple)
  2. As a society we consume WAY more food by volume and WAY more calories than necessary to live a healthy life (not to mention the extremely high amount of carbs and fats that your body will only store away)
  3. Exercise and training are at the mercy of nutrition. 
  4. There is no better stress relief or humbling experience than that of a heavy squat clean. 
  5. You were born to run. (Our species was once nomadic after all). So, do it!
  6. Goal setting is incredibly important to progress. (I like checklists and schedules)
  7. Eat your green vegetables!!! (they might just make you smarter)

These are just a few things I learned and certainly in no order of importance. I could spend way more than a few paragraphs getting lost in counting your consumption of macronutrients and how important your physical health is to your psychological well being. The most important thing to learn/remember as you navigate life is the importance of family. Don’t take for granted the time you have with the people you love. Its not easy to hear that your wife may only live 5-10 more years. Talk about a wake up call.. I would be 42 and my daughter would be 14. I am not ready to accept that, but it does provide an incentive to make everyday count.

To all the Mother’s out there. YOU are an incredibly important part of your family. Your kids look up to you more than you could ever imagine and your husbands need you more than you know.  Feeding a family, cleaning their clothes, washing their dishes, reading them books, telling them stories, teaching them character and values, brushing their teeth, cleaning their bottoms, and putting them to bed is a FULL time job. And one that is too often taken for granted. 

Shaving Shannon’s head the first time after a few weeks of chemo.
The second time shaving her head after her recurrence and chemo.

Spouses of cancer survivors. Buckle up. You are headed down the biggest roller coaster you have ever been on (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Be prepared. You will have to be a doctor, nurse, father, wife, provider, leader and therapist. Don’t worry. You have what you need to do all those things (even thou you may not know it yet). Lean into that responsibility and accept help from others when you feel like you can. (Don’t accept too much help. After all this is your responsibility…  you promised in sickness and in health). But don’t underestimate good people who want to help you. (Early on you will find a large number of people who reach out to help. Don’t be discouraged when a few months later there are only a few left.  These are the people you really want in your life.) Take time to care for yourself. Your family will only be as good as your are.

I am a fortunate man. Given an awesome family and responsibility. We all have tools that help us navigate life. Leading a healthy lifestyle is pretty high on my list. It helps me be better at everything I do. Find yours and make a difference!


3 thoughts on “Friends of 32-Miles: Matt Gray

  1. Wow that was an amazing message! You have been and always will be a great husband and father!!! We are truly blessed to have you in our family and to call you our son(in law). You have made me feel better knowing you are there with Shannon and taking such great care of my daughter!! Everyone’s time on earth comes to an end at some point. Only the good Lord knows when that will be but for now I pray we are all together for MANY years to come. Thanks Matt for sharing your heart…you are an amazing man!


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