Some stories, though not easy to tell, are necessary to share. The Boggs family’s story is an example of such.
In some way, Tyler County residents have always known of the Boggs, maybe by stopping at their restaurant in Middlebourne to pick up a tasty pizza or listening to the police scanner.
Others in the community may have become more familiar with the family through social media. There are frequent posts regarding Matt’s battle with liver cancer and the hashtag, boggsstrong.
Through the outpouring of support headed the family’s way though, it is obvious, that the Boggs family have positively impacted the community more than just through their skills in the kitchen.
Though the outcome is not at all what anyone has hoped and prayed for, Matt’s sister, Meggan, perhaps said it best when she was asked if she would share the family’s story:
“We all hope that somehow through this journey we can inspire people to value family, time, and giving back to the people that provide for you.”
There is no doubt that we, as a community, has been inspired to do just that.
In Her Own Words…
Meggan Merritt on her family’s battle
“As I sit and try to share my family story, I find myself at a loss for the right words. How can I possibly fit a lifetime of memories and unconditional love on a piece of paper? Cancer is paralyzing. It rips a path of destruction through the lives of those that it touches. It controls your fears, hopes, and dreams. Primary Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma. Those three words change our whole lives. I can remember hearing the words “You have cancer” on October 1, 2014. Only it wasn’t me. It was worse. It was my hero – my big brother. I remember very little from the rest of that day. I was in an entirely different world trying to process how this could possibly be happening to my family.
“The best gift my parents ever gave me was the love of my big brother. For 32 years, he and I have shared an inseparable bond. He’s my person. We didn’t have the typically sibling rivalry relationship growing up. I often wonder if my parents wished we had just because we covered for each other so much! We didn’t fuss and fight with one another. I was always in his shadow, but he didn’t mind. I can’t remember a time that he made me feel like I didn’t belong there. He was the athlete and I was the brainiac. I can remember sitting in the stands of his basketball games or at the baseball field beaming with so much pride because that was MY brother that had just hit the game winner or knocked the ball over the fence. That’s never changed. I’ve tested our relationship more than once over the years, but his unconditional love always won out. He has stepped up during times in my life when no one else did. I was a young Mama and he was the one that brought my oldest son and I home from the hospital. Who does that at 24 years old when they aren’t obligated to? My big brother. He might not have always agreed with my decisions or life choices but he never made it a secret that nothing I could ever do would change the way he loved me. He has been a role model and the epitome of strength for my children.
He set the expectations high for them when they were young that Uncle Matt wouldn’t take anything less than 110% all the time. I’ll always be grateful for his place in their life. It’s started to shape them into incredible young men. Even cancer can’t take that away from them.
“When I think of all the million gifts he’s brought into to my life, there are few greater than the gift of a sister and making me an Aunt. My beautiful sister-in-law, Betsy, has fit so perfectly into our family. Let’s face it, it was going to take a special kind of person to pass my test! She far exceeded my expectations to love him like I expected someone to. I hear people talk all the time about their dreaded ‘in-laws’. You’ll never hear those words from my mouth. She’s my sister. Cancer can’t change that. His children, Landon (7) and Jozey (2), own their Aunt Meggan’s heart. I love them from a place in my soul that no one can ever touch. They know – even at their young ages – that there isn’t anything they could ever do to change my unconditional love for them. They will always be my connection to my big brother. Cancer can’t change that either.
“This past November, I ran the NYC Marathon with the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research as a way to honor Matt and his fight. Those 26.2 miles could never define the love I have for my brother but it was the only way I knew how to show him that I would move mountains to honor him. Plus, helping to fund cancer research made me feel like I was doing some small part to fight back. I can remember crossing that finish line and sending him a text that I was a marathoner. He simply replied, “You’re much more than that to me, Baby Sister”. I’ll hang on to those words for the rest of my life. It won’t stop there. I’ve been raised by two incredible souls that would give you their last meal if they thought you were hungry. I grew up watching my parents live paycheck to paycheck my entire life. Yet, Matt and I have always been taught that if you have enough then you give whatever is left. It’s the only way my family has been able to navigate through this storm. The family business has blessed us to be able to give back to our community. It’s so important to all of us that we invest in children, families around us that are also struggling, and cancer research so that hopefully someday no one ever has to live in the same position we are in.
“The care my brother has received during this journey at West Virigina University and Ohio State University has been top notch. We have no regrets that the choices we made for his care were the right ones. We are confident in their abilites and while we wish Matt’s treatment had yielded a different outcome – we couldn’t have asked for more compassion from his medical team. They have all been sincere, loving, and truly wanted what was best for him long term. We knew that Matt’s cancer was not curable but we were hoping that it was manageable. We were grateful that he qualified for two clinical trials during the past 16 month. That’s more than most people get. Unfortunately, last week we came to the end of the road. Matt’s oncologist did give him one last chemotherapy option but felt that the negative side effects would far outweigh any positive gains he would make. He recommended that we preserve his quality of life and love one another hard through whatever time we have left together. Those ten minutes in the exam room with my family following the news was truly devastating. All of a sudden life has a time clock attached. How do you possibly make every second count?
“He’s the epitome of strength. We’ve had to have some incredibly tough conversations in the days following that last appointment. The one thing that he has said over and over is that he wants us to promise to take care of his children and his wife. That says a lot for the incredible man he is – which is nothing new in my eyes. If there can be a silver lining in a situation like the one we are in, it is that we’ve learned to value our strength personally and as a family, value time because you can’t get it back, and value the incredible communities that we are part of. I wish I could personally thank each person that has given – financially, in prayer, or just in words of encouragement and concern – to my family. There wasn’t a single sentiment that was offered that we didn’t find some comfort in. We’ll never be able to fully repay our community for what they given us. It’s been so humbling to know that people truly care and has made this nightmare a little less terrifying. We sincerely appreicate the outpouring of love and support. You’ll never know how much it has touched our souls.
“As we face the uncertain days ahead, we hold onto our faith and hope that God isn’t out of this miracle business yet. We are just holding onto one another a little longer and little tighter each night as we go to bed. I know I don’t have enough time left to tell my brother all the million reasons he’s my hero, but I will spend the rest of my life honoring him and the wonderful things he’s done for so many. He’s forced me to rethink my priorities and understand that life isn’t about the material things – it’s about moments. Even fighting for his life, he’s still finding ways to put me in my place!
“You get a fresh start each new day to change the world. It doesn’t have to be Earth shattering. It’s just about being the sunshine in the storm for someone else. Value your family – every single one of them. Love them hard because you never know when the dynamic will change. Be kind. Always. Life is certainly too short to spend your days hurting or judging someone else. You’re heart will find so much more peace. I promise.
“I’ll never, ever fill the huge hole in my life or my heart. I intend to spend the days we have left making as many memories as we possibly can together. We’ll face the tough stuff down the road. It isn’t that time. Right now, we are just focused on ensuring our beloved guy is comfortable, free from pain, and has some peace in his heart. He’s our Cancer Warrior. But, you are SO much more than that to me, Big Brother.”
The Community Speaks Out
“I’ve known the Boggs family is some ways most of my life, but until a while back became to know them better,” Dawn Brown said.
Brown explained that a a little over a year ago she found herself forced into a work situation that she wasn’t comfortable with. She said she tried to convince herself the situation would be okay but quickly found out otherwise.
“I was presented with an offer, out of concern, from the entire Boggs family. They made me an offer that helped pave the way to get my business started. They wanted me to succeed, as they do with everyone they come into contact with,” Brown explained.
She said the Boggs family have become “an extended family to me with my deepest respect.”
“With the Boggs family and their generosity, I have had my own business, A Crown of Glory Hair Salon, for over a year.”
Matt’s wife, Betsy, is David Poling’s only first cousin on his father’s side.
“As you can imagine, they are both extremely important people to me, as are their amazing children,” he noted.
“With me being from Ritchie County and going to school in Fairmont, I don’t get to see what all goes on in Middlebourne on a day-to-day basis, but I can for sure say they do well over their part of helping the community,” Poling said.
He said the Boggs family has shown “countless amounts of compassion for their community” through hosting track meets, supporting sports teams, along with “endless amounts of food they have given away during certain events and free Thanksgiving dinners.”
Poling said he has personally been supported by the family, as he has been given a job “here and there whenever I needed it.”
Poling said he was thankful to be able to spend a few summers with the family during his freshman and sophomore years in college.
“The first summer I worked with them, it was in the kitchen cooking. Working with them was a blessing, and at the same time, I got to spend time with family. Betsy would make my schedule so that I could stay the night with her and work a double. That way I could make the most out of my 35 minute drive to Middlebourne,” Poling said.
“It was like we were helping eachother out,” he added.
Poling said over the course of the two summers, along with some other occassional times that he would work at the pizza shop, he received the tremendous experience of getting to build “all kinds of relationships in the community” and “spending some extra time with his Middlebourne family.”
“If I was lucky, I could also get some pretty useful lady advice from Matt while we were cooking!” Poling exclaimed.
Poling added that the community is full of loving an caring people like “Matt, Betsy, Kim, and Rodney… and they deserve the world.”
Josh Jenkins has been friends with Meggan since gradeschool. He stated that from 1998 to 2001 he lost six of his closest family members.
The emotion pain of such an immense loss led Jenkins to ” do something very stupid” – he attempted to kill himself the day after his senior prom.
“I was very lucky to survive,” he noted.
Jenkins explained that the Boggs family helped to coordinate a prayer service, cards, along with a “giant ‘Get Well’ from all my friends.”
Jenkins said that upon returning to school, he faced not being able to graduate with his friends and classmates.
“It was Meggan who helped me through everything and helped me to pass my final exam,” he noted, adding that without the help there is no way he would’ve been able to graduate.
Years passed and Jenkins lost touch with the family; he explained that he had another “not too intelligent moment” and “got involved in drugs.”
“I spent time in jail and paid my ‘just dues,’ as I deserved, but not once did the (Boggs) family look down on me. I received only encouragement,” Jenkins explained.
Jenkins said the Boggs family is made up of “some of the most caring and gracious people I know,” adding that dad Rodney has always “been someone you wanted to run into.”
He said he is six years clean from drugs, married with a family, and living a life he takes pride in. However, looking back, he said he is so thankful for knowing the Boggs family.
Jenkins described Meggan has one of the “most remarkable people anyone will ever meet.” He said the way the Boggs family lives life and helps the community is the reason he consider them to be “some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”