Skip to main content

By Joseph Santoliquito, CBS Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Cameron Mathes looks back at the pictures, the ones of the chubby, bald baby sitting up, and can’t believe that it was once him. It is kind of hard to believe that it was once him, considering the Marple Newtown senior wide receiver is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, is a three-sport star who is heading to Villanova on a baseball scholarship.

But it was.

When he was two-years-old, Mathes suffered from leukemia. His tiny body was bloated from the mix of medical concoctions that went into him.

“I was a chubby, bald kid,” Mathes says, laughing now.
He can laugh now—he beat it. Though he hasn’t forgotten it. Each year he still has to get checked out. He is also a Hero Ambassador for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, the American pediatric cancer charity founded by Alexandra “Alex” Scott to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, primarily for research into new treatments and cures, and to encourage and empower others, especially children, to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer.

“I see the people who get cancer in my community, and it makes me live life to the fullest, because I can’t believe how fortunate I am,” says Mathes, who carries 99.9 GPA at Marple Newtown. “It’s why it’s important that I have to give back. I am part of the cancer community. That chubby, bald baby was me. I never really thought about it, but maybe my drive to do well does come from the chubby, bald baby. I remember when one of my teammates, Mike Shelly, was in the hospital with cancer. I was extra motivated to work hard for him.”

On Thursday night, Mathes will be one of 62 high school players in Pennsylvania honored by the prestigious Maxwell Club, at its annual Mini Max dinner at the Drexelbrook Catering Ballroom in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. The awards dinner is open to the public and tickets are available on the Club’s website

“I wish I had a whole team full of Camerons,” said Marple Newtown’s football coach Chris Gicking. “He’s just a great kid who thinks of others before himself. He’s a team captain of our football, basketball and baseball teams. Cameron doesn’t walk around telling everyone he had cancer.

“Two years ago, one of our assistant coaches saw him at an Alex Lemonade Stand function and someone asked what he was doing there. He was told Cameron speaks at these functions because he beat cancer. I was like, ‘Wait, what?’ I didn’t know he had cancer. It not speaks well of Cameron, but of his family. They’re amazing people.”

Perhaps the most the player who may feel the most grateful when he receives his Mini Max is Mathes.

“I don’t look at the pictures of myself when I had cancer that often, but every once in a while, when an event pops up, it makes me go back and look back at those pictures,” Mathes said. “I don’t remember much about that time. I do remember the medications I had to take. My parents had to hold me down to take the daily needles I needed.

“I went through the process for a year-and-a-half for it. I had to take meds for the cancer for almost three years. I took pills, shots, needles. Oh, I remember the times my mom would have to give me the shots at home, and I tried to run away from her. I think it’s made me see things differently than a lot of kids my age do, because I’m fortunate to be here. My goal will always be to raise awareness to pediatric cancer.”

Mathes plans on living at Villanova and is thinking about maybe taking a picture of the chubby, bald baby as a great reminder of where he once was, and where he is now. Sometimes that’s not always an easy thing. When things get tough, because things are always tough, he can find solace in his fight.

“Without the care of my family, and the care of the doctors, I don’t know if I would be here, so yes, I’m fortunate, very fortunate,” Mathes said.