Living with stage 4 medullary thyroid cancer hasn’t changed the positive attitude that Matt Zanutta carries with him each day. With his construction business growing and a young family at home, everything was moving in the right direction for Matt until a fall on a job site led him down an unimaginable path that eventually led to his cancer diagnosis in 2020 at the age of 29.
Matt’s wife, Justine Zanutta, will never forget the day she got the news. She was sitting at home, holding the couple’s first child — their newborn son. “It was hard to process the news. It just flips your world upside down. At the time it feels like you’re being robbed of the best years of your life,” explains Justine.
When he was referred to The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre for treatment, Matt underwent several surgeries and then radiation. It was an already a difficult time, made even more challenging because of the pandemic but his medical team helped him maintain his top-notch attitude. “Drs. Scott Laurie, Marc Gaudet, and Michael Odell were unbelievable, and the support the nurses provided every time I was in the hospital was incredible. It was during the early days of COVID, so it was hard times because I couldn’t have my family with me. You don’t appreciate the care until you experience it,” says Matt.
“The chemo drug Matt is on today wouldn’t be available without advancements in medicine. What matters is raising money for cancer research to support new, innovative treatment options for not only Matt, but many other people as well.”— Justine Zanutta
In late 2022, Matt’s cancer started to spread quite aggressively, and he started targeted chemotherapy treatment at the end of January 2023 — a newer drug that has only been in Canada for a year. Through it all, Matt continues to run his business. He and Justine know cancer research advancements are crucial. “The chemo drug Matt is on today wouldn’t be available without advancements in medicine. What matters is raising money for cancer research to support new, innovative treatment options for not only Matt, but many other people as well,” explains Justine.
The couple’s desire to say thank you and to raise money for cancer research is how Team Top Notch came to be in May 2022. The couple created a Run for a Reason team and brought together family and friends. “Everyone always asks me how I’m doing, and my answer is always ‘top notch’, and so that’s how the name for the team came together,” says Matt.
The team loved the first-time experience and they’re back again for 2023. “It was awesome. It was our first race weekend, and we had a really great time. It was all smiles the whole 5k, and we raised $15,000 for cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. That was huge for us, and it makes us feel good to give back,” explains Justine.
Together, this team is fueling cancer research while maintaining a top-notch attitude that they know will help them as they take each step in this cancer journey together, as a family.