Fishing tournament raising funds for Matt Bauer

Fishing tournament raising funds for Matt Bauer
Matt Bauer’s dogs, Mackeral and Mahi, recently visited him at the Moffitt Cancer Center. - Matt Bauer | Submitted

HOLMES BEACH – Twenty-six-year-old Holmes Beach resident Matt Bauer has been diagnosed with leukemia for a second time and the upcoming Fishing for a Cure fishing tournament is raising funds to assist him.

Bauer discussed the tournament and his health on Friday, Nov. 15 speaking by phone from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, with his mom, Julie Pecor, at his side. Pecor lives in Ellenton and is a nurse at the Bayfront Health hospital in St. Petersburg.

The tournament will begin with a captains’ meeting at Galati Yacht Sales, 900 South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria on Friday, Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. The entry fee is $50 per angler.

“It’s a catch, photograph and release tournament. Lines can be dropped in the water as soon as the meeting is over. Check-in is Saturday, Nov. 23, and you must be in line with your photos by 3:30 p.m. Photo collection is from 3:30 to 4:30 and the awards ceremony is at 5,” Bauer said.

Participating anglers will earn points according to the length of the longest three snooks, redfish or trout they catch.

Fishing tournament raising funds for Matt Bauer
The Fishing For a Cure tournament will take place Nov. 22 and 23. – Matt Bauer | Submitted

“I’m an avid fisherman. I just got my commercial fishing license. I was working on getting my restricted species license and my captain’s license, but I had to put that on hold to take care of this,” Bauer said.

In 2002, when he was nine, Bauer moved from Vermont to Anna Maria Island. After his first bout with leukemia at 16, he moved back to Vermont where he finished high school and attended college before returning to the Island.

Bauer manages a mobile boat detailing business on the Island. His co-worker, Michael Sabato, helped organize the fishing tournament and secure the prizes donated by local businesses. Anna Maria Galati and Mary Lanzino also helped. For more information on the tournament, contact Sabato at 941-465-7622.

“I had 150 T-shirts made for the tournament. I also have 500 orange bracelets we’re selling for $5 to help raise funds for my bills and living expenses,” said Bauer, who does have health insurance.

Fishing tournament raising funds for Matt Bauer
Shelby Counihan designed these fundraising stickers. – Shelby Counihan Designs | Submitted

The fundraising efforts include the ribbon-shaped Team Bauer stickers available for $5 at West Ave Salon, 5008 Manatee Ave. W., in Bradenton. Stickers can be mailed for an extra dollar. Shelby, at Shelby Counihan Designs, designed the stickers and is handling the sticker sales.

Bauer and his girlfriend, Rachel Sturdevant, started an online GoFundMe page: “Matty B’s Second Battle with Leukemia.”

“Rachel has been very supportive. She’s stayed with me pretty much every night here at the hospital. It’s a lot to comprehend for someone who hasn’t been through this before,” Bauer said.

Bauer said he misses his dogs, Mackeral and Mahi.

“My roommate, Justin McKenzie, is helping take care of them. Rachael takes them to the dog park and my friends and their parents are helping pay for dog food and vet bills,” Bauer said. “I’ve also got a cat named Mullet. All my animals are named after fish.”

Leukemia returns

“I got a bone marrow transplant on Oct. 29, 2009, from by sister, Whitney Van Slyke, who’s a perfect match. On Oct. 25, I was diagnosed again. I felt sick. I had swollen lymph nodes and discolored gums. I felt weak, fatigued and had the chills,” Bauer said.

After inconclusive visits to local health clinics, Bauer and Pecor went to Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton.

“I asked the doctor to draw blood and I explained that Matt was 10 years removed from having leukemia. When they did, it showed the blast had returned,” Pecor said.

Fishing tournament raising funds for Matt Bauer
Matt Bauer and his mom, Julie Pecor, are facing his health challenge together. – Matt Bauer | Submitted

“I was readmitted to Moffitt on Oct. 29 – 10 years to the day from my first bone marrow transplant. My first diagnosis was on July 9, 2009. In July, it had been 10 years, so I thought I was clear. Me and my friends went to D Coy Ducks and celebrated. A few months later we found out it relapsed,” Bauer said.

“It’s been tough. It’s hard to comprehend. It’s hard to go through it a second time because it wasn’t supposed to happen again. I was shocked, flabbergasted and overwhelmed,” Bauer said.

“He finished seven days of chemo and the chemo is doing its job. Currently, he has zero leukemia cells. They’ll do the repeat bone marrow biopsy on the 25th and we’ll get a preliminary result on the 27th,” Pecor said.

“We found out Matt’s FLT-3 positive – he’s got the cell that mutates his cells and caused the leukemia again. He’s got two weeks of medicines that specifically target the FLT-3 mutation so it never comes back,” Pecor said.

“My prognosis is good,” Bauer said.

He hopes to be out of the hospital in early December but will need to return for a bone marrow transplant.

“The bone marrow transplant doctor just put Matt into the registry and Matt has 113 perfect matches,” Pecor said.

Fishing tournament raising funds for Matt Bauer
Justin Gratton, Justin McKenzie, Stephan Fortin, Michael Sabato, Matt Bauer, Chandler Noyes and Joe Precourt recently spent time together at Moffitt Cancer Center. – Matt Bauer | Submitted

Life-altering experiences

Bauer’s first bout with leukemia changed his outlook on life.

“The first one definitely changed me as a person. Before that, I was young and reckless. I went through intense treatment and had a lot of time to reflect. It opened my eyes to how fragile life is – even the little things, like walking on the beach, surfing and hanging out with friends,” Bauer said.

His second bout is impacting his signature hairstyle.

“I have dreadlocks and my hair started falling out yesterday because of the chemo. I wanted dreads when I was a kid but I lost my hair when I had chemo at 16. When it grew back, I said this is my chance and I’ve had my dreads for about seven years. It’s hard for me to accept that I’m losing my hair to a disease I originally beat. I know it’s just hair, but I put so much dedication into growing it.”