Editor’s note: These stories were produced by the Department of Defense and published here as part of a partnership with Military Times.
Staff Sgt. Matt Cable is a two-time cancer survivor, diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. The Mayo Clinic describes leukemia as a cancer of the blood-forming tissue of the body, namely the bone marrow and lymphatic system. The National Institute of Health states there are over 59-thousand new cases of leukemia reported in 2023 so far. Statistics like that are sobering, making it important to highlight cases, such as Matt’s, where the patient is able to successfully recover and return to a sense of normalcy.
The longest part of Matt’s journey started with 18 days in the ICU due to complications from chemotherapy. He suffered complete organ failure, forcing medical experts to put him into a medically induced coma. The coma was risky, with doctors not confident he would wake up. But those who met Matt know that is not something anyone should have worried about. His friends and acquaintances know him for his drive and determination, which he displayed by waking up from a coma doctors didn’t think he’d survive.
Matt spent 30 days in the hospital following his coma, undergoing a bone-marrow transplant.
“For 11 months, my blood was not reproducing,” he said in a 2022 interview with the Reserve and National Guard Magazine. “It took about a month-and-a-half to two months following the transplant before it started reproducing again. I was getting blood transfusions twice a week and my iron levels shot up.”
Most people would take time to rest following a brutal medical event like this, but not Matt. He entered a CrossFit competition shortly after treatment.
“I didn’t place. I took fourth actually,” he said. “I’ve been knocked down many times but I’ve never given up. You must fight your way back up once you’ve been knocked down.”
He took that sentiment to heart in 2017 during his first appearance at the Air Force Trials in Las Vegas. He earned a slot on Team Air Force to compete at the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago, Illinois. Matt earned two Gold medals in track and a Silver in Standing Shot Put and Bronze in Standing Discus.
His competitive road to recovery didn’t stop there though. In 2019, he went on to compete as one of 64 athletes on NBC’s Titan Games, hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“He actually called me a beast on live television,” he said in an interview with Muscle and Fitness. “He came up to me backstage, shook my hand, and said that I killed it. He’s a super cool dude, just as you would think when you see him.”
Following his stint on Titan Games, Matt deployed to Qatar where he experienced a relapse in his leukemia. He spent the next 40 days at Walter Reed battling leukemia for a second time along with fungal infections that put him on life support. Despite this setback and the ensuing medical retirement from the military Matt came back stronger than ever. In 2022 he competed at the Invictus Games in The Hague, Netherlands, earning seven medals representing Team U.S.
“I’ve learned you’ve got to be resilient in life,” he said. “Nothing will ever come easy in this life including your recovery, but you just have to remember to look in that mirror and remember who you are and get back on that horse and continue to grind...”
You can follow Matt’s story on the AFW2 Facebook page at www.facebook.com/airforcewoundedwarrior. Learn more about AFW2 at www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.