Sarcoma Story: Matthew Cirelli

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Type of Sarcoma: Ewing Sarcoma
Location: Back

Matthew “Swirls” Cirelli was an excellent, hard-working student, and a member of the cross-country team. He felt a lump on his back, so Matt’s parents made an appointment with his primary care physician and after further work-up he was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma in January 2011. As cross-country runner, Matt had developed what he initially thought was shin splints, but was found to have a fracture in his leg, which may have been a result of the Ewing as well.

During his senior year of high school, he bravely fought through numerous treatments to complete his course work, and to enjoy the prom and graduation. To his classmates, Swirls was beloved for his kindness, easy-going manner, sense of humor, and of course, the curly hair which gave him his nickname. He was accepted into several colleges, and planned on attending Merrimack College. He was a lifelong parishioner of Saint Mary’s Parish in Winchester. 

Matt wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and hoped to pursue a career as a medical professional. He was compassionate and always helping others. Having two cousins with autism, Swirls was, from a young age, interested in helping those with special needs. He was devoted to spending time with his cousin Eric. Throughout high school, Swirls also served as a respite provider for the Northeast ARC in Danvers, working with individuals with autism.  

Matt loved sports and games. He played on several youth teams. He spent hours with friends and cousins, playing baseball and soccer at Playstead Park, street hockey and basketball in his backyard. When he wasn’t playing sports, Matt was watching them. He was an avid fan of the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox, and in his nineteen years, saw 8 duck boat parades.

Swirls was a leader at starting and maintaining family traditions: egg toss races and fireworks on the Fourth of July; home run derbies and family flag football on Thanksgiving; sleepovers at Aunt Brenda’s; family pasta Sunday parties; and trips to Florida with his uncles. Matt loved spending time with his grandparents, parents, brother, and his many uncles, aunts and cousins. 
Swirls was a great friend. He enjoyed hiking at the Reservoir, swimming, Chinese food, and body painting Antoine in the backyard. Cruising in the Swirls mobile and trips to Cape Cod and New Hampshire were always a favorite. The Swirls’ gang enjoyed street hockey and bonfires in Mama Swirls’ backyard. 

Matt passed away after a 2.5 year battle on December 8th, 2013. He beat cancer twice, but it just kept coming back. He was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA and was grateful for the excellent medical care and tremendous kindness he had received since his illness began. Fittingly, his greatest wish was to recover, so he could return the favor and help others.

Swirls touched everyone he ever met.  His legacy is carried on by his family, friends, and the Swirls community through the Swirls Around the World Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that honors Matthew’s legacy by embracing his courage, spirit and kindness to pay it forward.  The foundation supports children and young adults battling cancer through the delivery of monthly Swirls Packages of Love, organizing special Swirls Days for children and young adults and their families and by donating gifts and packages to patients receiving care at Massachusetts General Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Center where Matt was treated.  The foundation also gives scholarships each year to high school graduates to pursue their dream of going to college.

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