Friends, family members and neighbors fought back tears as a video compilation flashed glimpses into the past year for Matthew Tenhulzen. The eighth grader from Leota Middle School battled, and beat, an aggressive form of cancer.

Matthew celebrated his 14th birthday at the Good Brewing Hollywood Taproom on Tuesday, Dec. 14. However, it wasn’t just a regular birthday party.

“It’s really excited that we can celebrate his life and say ‘Yay! You made it,’” she said.

Early into Matthew’s chemotherapy treatment, the Make-A-Wish Foundation approached his family to grant a wish for him. The teenager expressed interest in a shopping spree. 

Make-A-Wish representatives explained that his gifts would not be delivered until next year due to delays. However, parents Traci and Mike Tenhulzen secretly organized a big reveal of the gifts during his birthday party in order for his wish to be granted around friends and family.

Courtesy of the nonprofit organization, Matthew unwrapped a new iPhone and Apple Watch as well as several pairs of shoes during the party.

“I was really excited,” he said. “I asked [Make-A-Wish] when the presents would arrive, and they lied to me.”

Traci said she wanted to thank Good Brewing for hosting the celebration and donating the rental fee to Make-A-Wish. 

Matthew’s journey started when he noticed a lump on his arm while playing lacrosse. Thinking it was only a bruise, he brushed it off without concern. The bump didn’t go away. 

The Tenhulzen family went from doctor to doctor, which all said to use ice and heat on the bump to make it go down. 

“We just had a gut feeling that there was something else going on,” Traci said. “I think parents have to be an advocate for their child … It took us a while to figure it out, but we finally did.”

Matthew received his diagnosis of CIC-DUX4 sarcoma (CDS) in April 2021.

Treatment meant six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation every day for almost six weeks at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, Matthew said. 

“I don’t have a fear of needles anymore at least,” he joked.

He said neighborhood friends and family members provided mounds of support through cards and virtual messages.

To remove the tumor in his arm, Traci said, her son underwent a 10-hour surgery in September. A large piece of skin was removed from his leg to be placed on his arm. Matthew added that he received 120 stitches. 

“It was a tough six months, but I’m just glad to be here,” he said.

Matthew has one more operation in February. The family is looking forward to leaving this chapter in the “rearview mirror,” Traci said.

“It makes me feel pretty lucky despite how unfair the cancer was,” Matthew said. “They didn’t really have a treatment for the cancer, but I still got rid of it.” 

Matthew, like any other teenager, has several hobbies. He participates on lacrosse and football teams in Woodinville. But lately, Matthew has been passionate about fashion and cooking as well as playing his favorite video game Valorant with his friends. 

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