Occupation: Recently graduated from Heritage High School and plans to attend Vanderbilt University.
When Heritage High School grad Matt McGill walks the Survivors Lap during this week’s Relay for Life, he’ll be sporting a new tattoo.
The 18-year-old survived Leukemia after being diagnosed as a baby. The tattoo is McGill’s first, but it packs plenty of meaning for a young man who plans to become a pediatric oncologist.
“I just think it’s something that will be with me forever. It’s just personal. I like tattoos and always wanted one,” he said. “It’s going to be a mix of tribal and the cancer ribbon and will have ‘Survivor’ written on it with the date I was diagnosed, March 17, 1993 -- St. Patrick’s Day.”
McGill said he was 22 months old when he was diagnosed. “I went through 38 months of chemotherapy, but I don’t really remember that much about it,” he said. “I remember a few treatments but most of the memories are really fuzzy and faded. I went three times a week at first, and. as the treatments progressed, it lessened.”
McGill said the emotions of dealing with cancer at such a young age are still with him. “It changed how I looked at life, seeing how it affected my parents and family,” he said. “Mom still has a hard time talking about it with me.”
McGill said he enjoys encouraging others dealing with cancer. “I just use the fact that I’ve been through it and beaten it,” he said.
McGill is the team captain at Heritage High School for the Relay for Life, which begin early Friday evening on the campus at Maryville College. It’s been a few years since the school has had a team but McGill said another captain has been picked for next year’s Relay, and he hopes to continue the school’s success with Relay.
“Our team has raised almost $1,000,” he said. “I’ve got pretty good involvement from students, so I hope it will continue in the years to come.”
McGill said Relay volunteer Elizabeth McKnight has been very helpful this year in his turn as captain for the Heritage High School Relay for Life team. “It’s hectic to be a captain and get it organized, but it’s fun when the event comes and all the hard work pays off,” he said.
McGill said it is important for the community to turn out and support Relay for Life as the event raises money for cancer research.
“All survivors in the community should come register and do the Survivor Lap with us. It’s an emotional time,” he said. “It’s a good community project, and I like seeing the involvement grow each year.”
As for his future? “I want to be a pediatric oncologist and work with children who have cancer like I did. I’ve been through it and know what it can be like for those families.”
Here is Matt McGill:
1. I am a cancer survivor.
2. I was diagnosed with leukemia on March 13, 1993, during the blizzard.
3. I was diagnosed and treated at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
4. I was born and raised in East Tennessee.
5. I attended Porter Elementary, Heritage Middle and Heritage High schools.
6. I graduated Heritage High School sixth in my class.
7. I am an officer in the National Honor Society at Heritage High School.
8. I played football for three years.
9. I have been accepted to Vanderbilt University .
10. I am planning to major in pre-med at Vanderbilt.
11. My hope is to become a pediatric oncologist.
12. I am getting a tattoo in remembrance of surviving cancer.
13. I have been involved in Relay for Life for six years.
14. I received a Mountaineer award from Heritage High School.
15. I work at the Bass Outlet store in Tanger, Pigeon Forge.
16. I have been working at Bass for two years.
17. I recently got a motorcycle license.
18. My ride is a 1974 Honda.
19. I was captain of the Heritage High School Relay for Life team this year.
20. I love going to drag races.
21. I enjoy cooking.
22. I have traveled to Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.
23. My favorite genre of music is classical rock.
24. I received an academic letter all four years of high school.
25. I attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January.