Gathering of Nations
2014 University of New Mexico Arena "The Pit" Avenida Cesar Chavez
Blvd. SE (Hwy. 25, exit
#223) Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
DR. LITA MATHEWS BLOG
Welcome to the Official
Dr. Lita Mathews Blog!
This blog offers readers details of
Dr. Lita Mathews’ 6 year medical odyssey...It begins with her diagnosis with cirrhosis in April 2008, the result of a decades-old blood transfusion.
A diagnosis of cancer of the liver in February 2010 put Mathews on a waiting list numbering in the tens of thousands for a donor liver.
Lita's decision to make her story public inspired
7 people to volunteer to offer a part of their livers to help save Mathews, an American Indian with roots in Picuris Pueblo...read
more below. CHECK BACK OFTEN FOR
FREQUENT BLOG UPDATES!
Well folks the summer of 2013 has come and gone. It was the best summer I have had in a few years. It all began for me with the 2013 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. It was our 30th Gathering; and it was the very best. The dancing and singing was super great. The Music in the Pit and on Stage 49 were also the best. This year brought out many people who I have not seen in years.
Two weeks after the Gathering I had my third annual post liver transplant check up at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. After the life threatening issues I experienced last December when the Hepatitis C treatment ended, I was not looking forward to this Mayo Clinic appointment. However after two full days of blood tests, X-Rays, Scans, and other exams the consultation with the doctor was way better than I was anticipating. The doctor reviewed the results with the three of us (Derek, Melonie and me) and said that I was in pretty good shape. My liver was doing very good and over all I was quite healthy. There was mention of the Hep C
level. The Hep C is still there, however was somewhat low and not raising it's ugly head at the time. I was told
that in comparison to most people at the three year post transplant exam, I was in the top five percent.
At the end of the consultation, the Doctor told me to go and have a great summer
and I did just that.
With that good news, The three of us headed out of the Mayo Clinic with big smiles and onto the summer powwow
trail. first stop was Cherokee North Carolina. And from there we zig-zagged back and forth across the country
in our big black truck, traveling over twenty five thousand miles. As the summer went on, my dancing skills were
returning. I was feeling my old form as a traditional dancer and more natural each week. My dresses each weigh
about 30 pounds. Before I left the hospital after the liver transplant, the doctors told me that the complete recovery
and feeling like my old self would take a long time. I found that to be true. As my dancing skills and strength was
improving, I notice and could feel sensations across my stomach as the nerves and in that area of my body where
the incision was made, began to tingle and itch as they were waking up and becoming sensitive. This was a strange
feeling, but I was very pleased to have it happening. Each weekend I was registered as a contest dancer. I danced hard.
And as a very competitive dancer, I was a bit disappointed with the results of the contest at the end of the powwows,
as seldom was my name called as a winner. Before I took ill in 2008, I was a pretty good dancer, and was placing
in the competition nearly every weekend. One of the personal highlights of the summer of 2013 for me happened in
Minnesota at the Shokapee powwow, when Madelyn goodwill (traditional dancer)told me that her friend had video
recorded our contest and after they had seen the video, agreed that Dr. Lita (me) was back and looking like her champion
dancing self. I was elated! But the times have changed and I have to admit that I had to look at the many other reasons
for dancing. I enjoy my style of dance. I am very grateful to the generous gift of life provided to me by the donor of my liver.
So I celebrate that great gift each time I step into the dance arena. And most of all I am dancing, because I can!
In between the powwow weekends My family & I were also able to take in our second passion. That being the concert music scene.
We took in several shows by some of our most favorite groups. I believe that a lot of my continued recovery is based upon the feelings
I receive from the dancing and the drums at powwows, the music I enjoy and the continued prayers and ceremonies on my behalf.
We are now back in Albuquerque, and settling into home life, which offers another world of enjoyment for me. Just a few days ago,
for the first time in five years, I was able to take a long bike ride with Derek. We traveled on our bikes for about a ten mile journey
through the nature park (The Bosque) along the Rio Grande River, which passes through Albuquerque. I have also enjoyed again
the beautiful and colorful balloons which float over our house during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I am also very happy to be
back home with our fantastic Maine Coon Cat, Spooky. Spooky is my certified companion animal.
Throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons I will continue my recovery by focusing on my exercise conditioning, and diet while
the three of us must once again turn our focus to the production of the greatest show in Indian Country, The 2014 Gathering of Nations
Pow Wow. I hope to see everyone who may read my blog and so many others in 2014 at the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow.
COME TO ALBUQUERQUE!
I am feeling much better now and looking forward to the 2013 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. For so many reasons, this past December was perhaps the toughest days of my life since the transplant. The side effects from the treatment were so severe I was not sure I was going to survive, but with the quality of my medical team and the rock solid support of my family, I pulled through it. The ordeal left me very weak and unsteady. My weight dropped to 99 pounds but my recovery was rapid. It was Derek and Melonie who refused to give up on me.
They forced me to get out of bed and off the couch to begin exercise. In the beginning it was like learning to walk again, as my energy levels were so low. Derek was persistent about diet and a bottle of Ensure a day. By the end of December 2012 I was strong enough to begin our morning walks again and the use of strength building equipment.
five years for me,
Derek and Melonie
have been extremely
trying. With all of
issues, we have
somehow been able to
step up and produce
Melonie, and all of
the many people
praying for me have
given me the
strength to pull
through all of this.
They have given me
the very desire to
But it is the
Gathering that gives all three if
us the strength and
motivation to keep
going. So many
people have told me
that I am a strong
woman. But the
reality of my
strength comes from
the support and
from so many
people. To that I am
It was 5
years ago just
before the start of
the 2008 Gathering
of Nations Pow Wow,
that I got very ill. It
was then that my
medical journey to
was scared, as my
life was not
doing well. I did
not know If I would
even live to see the
Gathering that year.
When the doctor
released me to go to
the pow wow, I new
that my healing had
begun. I was headed
Gathering where the
songs and the people
would provide a
to what seemed so
And again this
past December became
another test of my
desire to live.
With that I
look forward to the
Gathering coming and
how much it means to
so many people.
excitement of the
Gathering began to
grow. I thought
about the people
whom I would be
able to see once
again and also those
who have, passed on
in the past year and
will not be
there. Our powwow
family has lost a
lot of great people
over the past year.
I lost a good
friend Rosie, whom I
met at the Mayo
clinic in 2010, as
we both received
just days apart,
past away during the
days of my December
illness. So I
dedicate this years
pow wow to her
memory as we shared
something so dear to
brighter side I just
want to see all the
people and hear the
drums. What a
healing for me...What a good
feeling it will be
for every one.
This will be
my last blog entry
for a while. However
if something comes
up or a turn in my
health that I want to share, I
will offer a new
To all of
you, Thank You Very
much for your
support and prayers.
I ask you to keep me in
your hearts and
prayers, as my
journey is not yet
come to Albuquerque
for the Gathering if
magic about the
Gathering! -- Dr.
Rough going for Dr. Lita Mathews!
The treatment has been stopped and the lingering side effects
are nearly too much to handle. As it was mentioned in an earlier entry, Dr. Lita Mathews had the good fortune
results of the treatment which reduced the Hepatitis C virus to un-detectable levels. This was done
in a remarkable period of time; less than seven weeks of the treatment. The average time
expected to reduce the viral count is closer to twelve weeks.
With that in mind, the
treatment now was given
the go ahead to continue
for the completed term
of forty eight weeks.
However by week eight of treatment, Dr. Lita began to experience
many and severe side effects related to the treatment. She was beginning to suffer form
excessive diarrhea, lack of appetite, headaches, flu like symptoms, dry skin, leg swelling, and
very serious dehydration. Also at this time Lita Mathews began to experience the various
markers from the results of blood tests such as very low red and white blood cell counts
and elevated liver levels. After some consideration Lita was instructed to suspend the treatment
temporarily and return back to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ for more exams to find out what was going on.
It was on December 4th when Lita and Derek met with Mayo
Clinic doctors and after a full round of
Lab work, blood tests and scans on Lita's liver area. The blood test showed some improvement in
the levels of most areas. However Lita remained very weak and the scans revealed that all was good with her liver.
However, the Medical team informed Lita and Derek during this clinic visit that the Treatment was to
be completely terminated. What was being seen was that the treatment had successfully reduced the Hep C
however it now was beginning to do damage to Lita.
With that news Lita Mathews returned
home to Albuquerque, NM to begin the recovery from the treatment
and to plan to get on with her life. She was instructed to return to a reduced amount of medication,
of her anti rejection prescription. It was also understood that it would take some time for Lita Mathews
to regain her strength and return back to normal. However she had no Idea what was still to come as a result
of the treatment.
It was late on the evening of December 11th, When Dr. Lita Mathews and Rusty Gillette had just completed
the final edits on the soon to be released, Gathering of Nations book celebrating the 30th anniversary of
the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. Lita was preparing for bed when suddenly she began experiencing
the start of a severe nose bleed.
Derek and Melonie determined very quickly that this nose bleed was not
going to stop with the simple procedure of tipping the head back and pinching the nose together. Lita was
loosing a lot of blood and fast! So Derek and Melonie expressed Lita to the emergency room at a hospital
near their home in Albuquerque. They arrived at the hospital about 11:00 p.m. By
that time Derek and
Melonie had gotten Lita to the hospital, the blood was now coming out from her eyes and ears.
arriving at the hospital the doctors and nurses began to attempt to stop the nose bleed,
but they were
unsuccessful. Next, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist was called in to make another attempt to stop the
nose bleed. He too could not stop the bleeding, however he inflated a small balloon impactment to apply mass
pressure to the bleed location deep in Lita's right nostril. This was very painful for Lita and her face began
to swell from the packing in her nose which also left a six inch string hanging from her nose. This balloon did
stop the bleeding and the family returned home from the emergency room weak and tired
around 6:00 a.m.
The packing remained in her nose for the next three days.
Two days after the nose bleed began,
it was determined by the family after Lita`s sister Yolanda (a registered nurse) came to check up on her older sister
that Lita was taken to visit her local primary physician. It was determined that Lita needed more immediate attention for the weakness, severe dehydration and
health other issues.
An ambulance was called and Lita was then taken to another Albuquerque area hospital Emergency Room.
Lita was so weak that she could not stand up alone or stay awake. Her speech was slurred and in-audible.
In the ambulance an IV was started with a saline solution to begin hydrating her. While at the hospital, several
blood test were taken and other tests of which all were showing signs of out of normal levels but yet improving
from previous test that Dr. Lita performed. The massive nose bleed was caused by
extreme dehydration and
all of this trauma was
the results of the
treatment to fight the
Hep C virus.
After receiving nearly five bags of the saline solution, her blood pressure
ultra high levels (380/200) to very acceptable levels (120/55) and Lita was allowed to return home.
The next morning Lita and her family met with a specialist to remove the packing from her nose and to
see if the bleeding had stopped.
When the packing was removed, the results were
good and the bleeding had stopped.
The doctor did just a bit more work to ensure that the bleed would not reoccur again.
Lita was discharged and she returned home to begin her recovery.
Since this experience a few days and weeks have gone by and Lita Mathews is on a very fast track
to recovery. Recent blood test have shown all levels returning to normal and her strength is coming back as well. However,
through this ordeal Dr.
Lita has lost several pounds
of her weight and is less than one hundred pounds.
Lita is now relaxing at home and preparing for the work ahead as the family and friends begin the advance plans for the
30th annual Gathering of Nations PowWow. Lita will continue to recover and her Mayo
Clinic team of doctors, along with her
primary physician will continue to monitor her progress to recovery. It will be several months down the road which will
determine if Hep C has been defeated.
The cost for the treatment program has been excessive and at a high cost above the benefits of the
family insurance plan. If you would like to contribute to the fund established to assist Dr. Lita Mathews
with her medical bills related to the Hep C treatment program. All contributions are welcome and
to donate please go to
Dr. Lita Gets good News from the Doctors!
It was on Wednesday November 14th, that Dr. Lita Mathews' Hepatitis C treatment program crossed a major mile stone.
If you recall from previous blog entries, it was mentioned that by the 12th week of the treatment program,
the Hep C viral count had to be below 100. If not below 100 the treatment would be stopped in order to prevent
the body to becoming immune to the to the drug cocktail treatment. It was after Lita`s week 8 check up that the
doctors at the Mayo clinic informed her that the Hep C viral count was not only below 100, it was completely
undetectable. This information was received by Lita Mathews and her family as great news! However with the news,
the treatment will continue for another twenty four to thirty six weeks.
The purpose for continuing the treatment is to
attempt to beat down and to destroy the virus.
The treatment has provide Lita with several weekly challenges as to dealing with side effects such as the flu like symptoms: constant runny nose, body aches, foot swelling, and overall exhausted feeling. The worst day for her
Thursday is the day after she receives the Ribavirin injection. The Ribavirin is one of three drugs required for her
to take. The other two drugs are in pill form and taken daily.
Lita is a strong and determined person, however the added support of her family and close friends seems to be
providing her the added strength and confidence to complete the program. Her goal is to finally get rid of this horrible
blood virus once and for all, then return to the life she enjoys.
Lita Mathews wishes to thank all of you for the support and prayers given. Please have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!
Dr. Lita Begins
treatment to End Her
Fight with Hep C:
August 28th Dr. Lita and
Derek traveled to the
Mayo Clinic in Phoenix
Arizona, to begin the
treatment to remove the
Hepatitis Virus from her
The appointment at mayo
began with a battery of
blood tests, followed by
consultation with Dr.
David Douglas and his
Post Liver Transplant
The results of the
mornings test were very
good. Lita remains a
very healthy person,
with just one issue to
over come. As it had
been discussed with the
Mathews family prior to
the liver transplant
that there would be a
great possibility that
the Hepatitis virus
would remain in the
blood. It is more of a
blood disease which
radically attacks the
Last May at Dr. Lita's
second annual check up,
she was told that the
virus count was again on
the rise. The virus
count was at
million. They also said
that this was not a
drastically high number,
but should be address
and the treatment to
begin to save her new
liver. The doctor at
that meeting told the
family that Lita had a
very good chance of
defeating the virus and
enjoying a good quality
of life for a long time,
after the completion of
the treatment. Prior to
the liver transplant
Lita was on the
treatment for fifteen
months. Her body
responded to the
treatment and reduced
the viral count to a
negative level. However
the liver was just too
far gone to sustain any
real success. And now
with the fact that her
body once responded well
to the treatment, and
with a new added drug to
the mix, Dr. Lita
Mathews has better than
an 80 percent chance of
winning this battle. It
was recommended to begin
the treatment in August.
Prior to the start of
the treatment this past
August, Lita, Derek, and
Melonie spent the summer
of 2012 traveling over
thirty thousand miles in
their big black truck
traveling to powwows and
musical events. Some of
the events were Powwows
Minnesota, Wyoming, New
Mexico, New York State,
and Ontario Canada.
Along with the journey
on the powwow trail, the
family attended music
festivals and concerts
in Manchester Tennessee
(Bonnaroo Music festival
4 days), Ravina In
Chicago (Derek Trucks &
Susan Tedeshi), Chicago
Albuquerque Zoo (Ziggy
Marley), Red Rocks
Colorado (String Cheese
Incident), Chicago (The
Luna Blues Machine), and
Lita believes that the
drums, dancing and the
Music are all part of
her healing. Just one
week before the
treatment was to begin,
The Mathews family and
their friends came
together with a very
respected Lakota holy
man, to conduct a
ceremony for Lita's
healing and strength to
under go the treatment.
During the Ceremony Lita
was told that this
journey that she is on
was pre determined
before her birth and
that it is important for
her to tell her story to
others. She was also
told during the ceremony
that the treatment would
be tougher in some ways
while easier to endure
It was stated here
earlier that last May
Dr. Lita's Hepatitis
Viral level was at six
million. the results of
the blood test on August
28th was that the viral
count had reduced to
three million. The
family found this to be
great news as this
result was due to the
ceremony. No other
attempt to lower the
viral count had been
made at that point. On
September 24th, Lita had
her first monthly check
up at the Mayo. The test
results showed that the
treatment was going
well. The Viral count
had been again reduced
to two hundred and forty
thousand, from three
million just one month
earlier. Again this was
fantastic news! However
this treatment has many
side effects which Lita
has been experiencing
such as head aches,
exhaustion, body aches,
and lowered red and
white blood cells &
lowered immune system.
If the red and white
blood cell count gets
too low, Lita will then
injection of medication
to improve the blood
counts. Every day she
takes hand full of pills
several times per day,
and an injection each
Wednesday. Lita receives
assistance from her
Primary care to give her
the injection. Her
sister and Melonie will
be assisting later as
At the end of November
(week 12 of 48) The
viral count must be
reduced to less than 100
or the treatment will be
stopped to prevent the
body from becoming
immune. And this will
allow the treatment to
be attempted at a later
time. However everyone
is thinking positive
that the viral count
will hit the targeted
point and the treatment
will continue to it's
end on week 48 (mid July
Dr. Lita and her Family
want to thank everyone
for their support and
prayers through out this
ordeal. She will spend
the winter months
selling ads for the
program book and other
activities as the
Gathering of Nations Pow
wow gets closer. She
hopes to return to
dancing and the powwow
trail next summer.
The cost for this
medical treatment is
very expensive. If any
one would like to assist
Dr. Lita and her family
with these medical bill,
please go to
and search: Lita
DR. LITA MATHEWS TO UNDER-GO FINAL MEDICAL TREATMENT TO DESTROY HEP C:
Before I ever got the transplant, Dr. Douglas, head of the Department at
the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ explained:
1. That the new liver would not get rid of the Hepatitis C but rather provided
a fresh step.
2. That recipients of a partial liver from a living donor sometimes can
have more difficulties of the new liver adjusting to the body. I have been
blessed and lucky that I have had no problems with my new liver.
3. Also sometimes a live donation from an older living donor sometimes
experience the Hep. c returning with a raging vengeance. My donor was at
the oldest age allowed to be a donor. But in my favor, my donor was a
Native Woman, approximately the same size as me and in great health. She
was a perfect match for me!
With that said, we were
told from then till now
that the Hep. c could
raise its ugly head
again. At my 1st annual
check up the
Hepatitis C (Hep.
C) numbers remained low.
It was this past
February, my blood test
began to show suspicion
of something going on.
Through it all, over the past 2 years my health and energy have continued to improve greatly. Derek tells me that over the past 30 years of our relationship, he has never known me to be this strong and mentally sharp. However at my second annual check up this past may at the Mayo Clinic, they ran the usual gamut of tests. At the end of camp mayo week in Phoenix; when we met with the doctor to go over the results of the test.
We were told that I was one healthy little chick except for one thing....the
Hep. C numbers were on the rise. They then recommended that I return to the treatment, this time to destroy the virus and save my beautiful and healthy new liver (Lucy Begay which was named by my transplant surgeon). However since the last time I was on the treatment before the transplant in May 2010, there have been some vast improvements to the treatment. So after we (3) talked it over, we let the Mayo team know that I will do the treatment.
It will begin on August 29th,
it will require me to begin treatment with 2 meds. 1 is a weekly injection
and the other is a pill taken once a day. Four weeks into the treatment program, another oral med will be added. I will take that one 3 times per day. At 12 weeks into the treatment program the Mayo Clinic team will check the
Hep. c levels. If they are from 100 to below 0, they will continue the treatment for another 36 weeks. The total treatment will be 48 weeks. The positives are that I am healthy now, and if all goes well this devil will be no longer the menace of my life. So that is it. The docs are positive and we are too. My sister, Yolanda has agreed to administer the shot each week. She will be going to The Mayo Clinic with us at the end of August to meet the medical team and officially join the team to make this happen.
Throughout the treatment program I will attempt to continue all that in my life is important to me. As my energy level will allow me, I will continue to dance. I will be an active participant in the planning and production of the 2013 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, and maintain my daily exercise program. I believe that getting through it will require me to maintain my strength, a healthy diet, an my spirituality. I have a great team to back me up.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:
On more occasions then I can count I have been approached by various individuals, such as: dancers, singers, powwow fans, and absolute strangers. The reason for this is to tell me their personal connection to me... Dr. Lita.
What they have said humbles me and blows my mind every time! Apparently, I have touched many people by my actions and the kind of person I have been throughout my dancing and my academic career. I have been told that I have been an inspiration and given reason to pursue higher educational goals. Dancers have read my book;
"A POWWOW SUMMER ACROSS NORTH AMERICA" and seen my growth as a dancer and educator which in turn has inspired them to believe that they too can achieve in ways to improve their own lives.
Since my illness I have let people (through this blog) from everywhere know about my struggles to stay alive fighting Hepatitis C. After 15 months of treatment I had to face the fact that I needed a liver transplant which I survived with the help of family, friends, and powwow people. I have been lifted up by so many known and unknown good people throughout my fight. Through prayer and ceremonies my spirit and my health I continue to be forever grateful.
The cost of this medical treatment for Dr Lita Mathews is expected to cost more than one hundred
thousand dollars. Lita has a very good insurance policy. However her out of pocket expense will be approximately $30,000. If you would like to make a contribution and help her with this expense, please go to
On May 25th, 2012 Dr. Lita Mathews completed her second annual post
liver transplant checkup. After several days of examinations at the Mayo
Clinic in Phoenix Arizona, the results demonstrated that she is in the
best of health. Her new liver is functioning well; however there is an issue
which will need some attention in a few weeks. The doctors for now
have given Lita the green light to enjoy her summer and she is in great health
and at full strength.
Dr. Lita Mathews and her family have big plans for travel as she and
Melonie get back to Dancing each week end at pow wows across Turtle Island.
Derek is all set and happy to put in the long hours on the highway, driving to
the various Pow wows and music festivals. Music is a healing passion for and in
Dr. Lita's next blog,
She will reveal the new Challenge facing her and her new
liver, but for the next several weeks she hopes to enjoy herself and to see many of
her friends on the pow wow trail.
Dr. Lita Doing Well And Ready For GON:
Well here It is, nearly two years since my Liver transplant. I have been doing very well.
I continue to get stronger each and every day. My regular exercise regiment and diet,
I believe has attributed to my improvement. As with all who have received transplants
there is that continued adjustment. My liver is very healthy, and I am thankful for that.
My life long medication for anti rejection has been reduced to a near minimum.
Just after the liver transplant, I was taking a handful of pills twice each day. It has now been
reduced to just one pill,
twice each day. The
developed in the liver
in July of 2010, seems
to have been cleared up.
And the antibiotic which
I was taking for that,
has been discontinued. I
have had a great year!
It felt good to return
to dancing at powwows
and enjoying music. The
travel has been again
enjoyable. I also
believe that this has
been my best year back
at work, preparing for
the Gathering of Nations
Powwow. The advertising campaign for the Gathering of
Nations Pow Wow Program / magazine was very successful. This year's program book, I believe
is the best! It is packed with pages of great stories, great photos, Info on up coming powwows,
and so many memories. I am looking forward to the Gatherings! It is now just a few days away.
The sound of the drums and the excitement of seeing all the dancers, remains at the center of my
healing. I hope to even get out to Stage 49 to hear some of the great Music.
I hope to see all of you there. Please come to Albuquerque!
I will return to Mayo Clinic near the end of May, for my second annual check up.
And as always I thank all of you for your prayers, support and encouragement. I will be forever grateful. Dr. Lita
6 mo. after 1st Post Liver Check-Up: (This single entry by Lita Mathews) Six months has passed since I had my first annual post liver check up at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix Arizona. At that check up I was give a good and clear bill of health. My recovery from the transplant was coming along well. Since that time my family and I have spent the summer back on the pow wow trail. Our travels took us to events from coast to coast. We traveled over twenty five thousand miles.
My return to the dance arena was a dream come true for me. This was my goal in recovery. In the beginning the dancing and the long distances traveled in our Black truck was a bit much for me. But as the summer progressed, I rapidly gained my strength and stamina. It was a great and exhilarated journey. Seeing and dancing again in the many pow wow arenas with others was great. You have no real idea how good something is until you nearly loose it. the sound of the drums for me is a part of my healing.
On November 22nd, I returned to the mayo Clinic for a dermatological skin exam. The purpose of this exam is to check my body for signs of skin cancer. the only medication which I am prescribed to take for anti rejection of my new liver has a side effect which may cause skin cancer.
To my joy and delight
the exam showed no signs
of skin cancer. I heeded
my doctor's warning and
through the entire
summer I slapped on the
sun screen and added the
wearing of a hat during
the daytime hours at the
out door pow wows. The
summer was a time for me
of reflection and
thanks. If it was not
for the prayers and
ceremonies by those who
were concerned for my
health and the generous
donation of my donor, my
life would have been
over by now. As we
traveled, I met many
Native and others who
have also successfully
had organ transplants. I
also met and spoke to
others who now are
waiting for a donor. I
have dedicated my life
to encourage everyone to
consider becoming an
organ donor. Truly, as I
see it, the gift of
organ donation is a gift
of life. This gift from
the generous donor is a
major part of our
continued circle of
life. To all those who
have become donors, they
are heroes. As we now
move foreword through
these winter and spring
months, I am excited
about the 2012 pow wow
season ahead. It begins
for me with the 2012
Gathering of Nations Pow
Wow. I truly believe
that the "Gathering" is
a place of healing for
those who attend. I hope
to see everyone and to
greet them again at the
Gathering of Nations Pow
Dr. Lita Mathews, December 2011
By Olivier Uyttebrouck /
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer,
When a severe attack of cirrhosis of the liver and
hepatitis C in 2008 put Lita Mathews on the road to a liver transplant,
she responded in a way unusual for Native Americans: she started a blog
and talked about her disease publicly. Her illness began with
bleeding ulcers that sent her to a hospital just days before the start of
the 2008 Gathering of Nations powwow, which Mathews and her family have
organized for 29 years.
The blog, posted on the Gathering of
Nations website, offers readers details of Mathews’ three-year medical
odyssey. It begins with her diagnosis with cirrhosis in April 2008, the
result of a decades-old blood transfusion. A diagnosis of cancer of
the liver in February 2010 put Mathews on a waiting list numbering in the
tens of thousands for a donor liver. Her decision to make her story public
inspired seven people to volunteer to offer a part of their livers to help
save Mathews, an American Indian with roots in Picuris Pueblo. The
volunteer who turned out to have the most compatible match was the ex-wife
of Mathews’ husband. “It took me completely by surprise that she
was willing to give me a piece of herself so that I could live,” Mathews
said of Beverly Singer, who donated 60 percent of her liver for the May
28, 2010, transplant surgery at Mayo Clinic of Arizona. “You can
give so many things away to people, but the gift of life is the ultimate
gift,” she said. “That’s what Beverly gave me.” Singer, a native of
Santa Clara Pueblo/Navajo, provided a liver that matched Mathews so well that the
transplant surgeon call it a “miracle of miracles,” said Mathews’ husband,
Derek Mathews. Typically, surgeons have to stimulate the transplanted
liver with drugs to encourage it to function, but Singer’s liver required
nothing, he said.
By finding a living donor, Mathews was able to avoid the
long wait that eventually kills many of the 17,000 people in the United
States now registered for a donor liver with the Organ Procurement and
Transplant Network. “In many ways it was a miracle that I was able
to find exactly what they needed for me,” said Mathews in a recent
interview. “It’s not that easy for most people who have to wait, and I
didn’t have to wait.”
The long wait Native
Americans typically must wait. And too often, they die waiting. Native
Americans make up a disproportionate share of New Mexicans waiting for
donor organs, according to data from New Mexico Donor Services, a
nonprofit that oversees organ donations in the state. Native
Americans, who make up 9.4 percent of the state’s population, account for
23 percent of the 423 New Mexicans waiting for a kidney transplant. As of
July 30, Native Americans accounted for about 15 percent of all New
Mexicans waiting for any kind of donated organ. Native Americans
share a genetic heritage that can make it difficult to match them with a
suitable donor, said Maria Sanders, a spokeswoman for New Mexico Donor
Services. The fact that Singer and Mathews are both Pueblo women was a key
reason for the transplant’s success, she said. “That’s part of the
reason we want more Native American donors, because the matches are much
better,” Sanders said. “The individual that gets the transplant does so
much better.” But many Native Americans will not consider donating
an organ, possibly because of traditional beliefs, Sanders said. Sanders frequently discusses organ donation at public events around New
Mexico. She spoke about two years ago to about 30 people at an Indian
Health Services office in Albuquerque. “Individuals who did not want to
hear the information being presented either looked down or turned away
from me,” she said. About half the people in the room turned away while
Sanders spoke. Sanders also registers organ donors each year at the
Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. This year, she said, about 10 New Mexicans
registered as donors, she said. “Many people that stop by our table
say basically (organ donation) is against their beliefs,” Sanders said. The attitude is especially prevalent among New Mexicans, she said.
“Native Americans from other areas, such as the East Coast, are more
willing to donate than Native Americans here in New Mexico.”
Who donates? New Mexico’s Donate Life donor
registry last year exceeded 1 million, meaning about half of New Mexicans
have agreed to allow their organs and tissues to be harvested at the time
of their deaths. The
state Motor Vehicle Division does not track organ donors by ethnicity. But
in McKinley County, where Native Americans make up about 75 percent of the
population, only 18 percent of residents are registered as organ donors,
Sanders said. A high proportion of Native Americans also have
chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure that
would disqualify them as either organ donors or recipients, she said.
Value of community Singer, a professor of
anthropology and Native American studies at the University of New Mexico,
said she decided to speak publicly about her decision to donate her liver
because she recognized the need for more Native Americans to consider
donating an organ. Organ donation squares with traditional values of community
that are too often overlooked by contemporary Native Americans, Singer
said. “I think we live in a very self-centered community
sometimes,” Singer said. She also wants people to know that donating an
organ has improved her outlook on life and made her less critical of
others. “I don’t think that I’m so worried about what’s going to
happen in the future,” she said. “I know that everything takes care of
Dr. Lita Makes First Annual Post Liver
Mathews family arrived
in Phoenix Arizona on
Tuesday May 17, 2011 for
Dr. Lita Mathews' first
annual post liver
transplant check up
exams at the Mayo
Clinic. The exams began
early Wednesday morning
with a series of blood
tests followed by an MRI
and a liver biopsy. On
Thursday May 19th once
again at sunrise Dr.
Lita was in the Mayo
Clinic to continue the
series of rigorous
exams. That afternoon
when all of the exams
were completed, she and
Derek and Melonie met
with the Post Liver
followed by a lengthy
visit with the doctor.
After a body check of
her scar and questions
pertaining to how she
has been doing since her
last visit at the Mayo
Clinic last fall, the
doctor began to review
the results of the
exams. All of her blood
test had positive
results. And to the joy
of the Doctors and the
Mathews family, the
results of the liver
biopsy showed all was
going well with her new
liver. The concern that
the Hepatitis C and
liver scaring had
returned was negative.
Doctor Vargas gave Dr.
Lita the clearance to
return to her complete
normal way of life. For
her and her family this
means she can return to
competitive dancing and
However this goes
without saying that her
new normal will always
require paying attention
to her health and to
take great care of her
It was three years ago just before the start
of the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow that Dr. Lita Mathews was
stricken with complications related to Hepatitis C which had
caused cirrhosis of her liver. After that for the next fifteen
months Lita was being vigorously treated for the Hep C.
Throughout the treatment period, the Hep C levels had been
reduced to negative and was not visible. No sooner that the
treatment was completed, it was detected that the Hep C
treatment had caused a cancer tumor in the liver, and the
Hepatitis had returned. This meant that Lita needed a liver
transplant as soon as possible to save her life. Her doctor in
Albuquerque recommended she go to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to
be evaluated and to seek the new liver. During the next few
weeks seven people came foreword to donate a portion of their
liver to Lita. Of the seven, only one passed all the exams to
become eligible to donate the liver. At the start of the
Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, April 23, 2010, the family
received the good news that the living donor candidate had
passed all tests and was ready to donate the liver. The date was
then set and on May 28th, 2010 Dr. Lita Mathews and her liver
donor walked from the hotel and into the Mayo Clinic Hospital
for the liver transplant surgery. The transplant was a success.
one year the doctors observed the recovery of her health and the
fact that the new liver was working properly without rejection.
During that one year Lita became an advocate for organ donors.
In February 2011, The Gathering of Nations Powwow won the Grammy
for the best Native American Music Album. During the acceptance
speeches by Derek, Melonie, and Dr. Lita, Lita spoke to the
audience and the world expressing the need for everyone to
consider becoming an organ donor. She told the people that if it
had not been for a generous individual who donated a piece of
her liver, she would have not been alive to receive the Grammy
award. At the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, this past April
(2011) Dr. Lita again addressed the audience both in the stadium
and on the internet and encouraged all people to consider
becoming a donor. She was more specific concerning the need for
Native American people to become donors. She discussed the
desperate need of many Native people who need organ transplants.
She said that it is time to alter the personal and traditional
ways of thinking which prevents Native Americans from becoming
donors. Her donor was a traditional Native American woman who
saw the need and had the desire to share life. The donation of
organs is one way to complete and to extend the circle of life.
Dr. Lita will continue to be an advocate for transplant
donors and to encourage people to sign the back of the driver's
license. She and her family wish to thank all the many Native
people who conducted ceremonies and the others around the world
who offered prayers for her return to good health. She is
determined to not let them down as she has been given a second
chance to move forward with her life.
Dr. Lita Mathews Returns
To The Mayo Clinic For The Transplant Reunion:
It was on Saturday October 23rd, 2010
when Dr. Lita Mathews and her family attended the Mayo Clinic Liver Transplant
Reunion. The reunion was held on the Mayo Clinic campus in Phoenix Arizona. It
is intended to bring together all of the many liver transplant recipients who
have received a new liver over the past eleven years. It was a great celebration
of life re-newed. With more than two hundred transplant recipients in
attendance, it was most impressive when they were all called upon to stand up.
later the event had a very emotional moment when Dr. Douglas asked the parents
of a deceased liver donor to please stand up to be recognized.
The reunion/luncheon featured great and health food as many of
the liver transplant team members were there, including Dr. Douglas (Department
Head), Dr. Mulligan (Transplant Surgeon), Dr. Vega, several transplant
coordinators and others. Lita was very happy to see her new friend Rosie Chavez
at the reunion. Rosie received a liver transplant just three days after Lita
received her new liver.
As the reunion drew to a close Dr. Lita decided to do even
more to draw focus to the need for more organ donors, especially from the Native
American community. The Native American community has the lowest number of organ
donors, while the need is high. There are many native people who may have
refused to become an organ donor based upon cultural and religious reasons.
However as native people all relate to the medicine wheel with the four colors
on it, representing the people and cultures of the World, we are all one family.
To all Native people that Medicine wheel and more specific the
pow wow circular arena represent the circle of life. To become an organ donor
helps to keep the circle unbroken and the celebration of life. Dr. Lita Mathews
encourages everyone to sign the back of their driver's license to become an
organ donor, and for those interested in becoming a live organ donor to contact
the Mayo Clinic (480) 342-1010, or your state organ donor services. Lita says
that if it was not for the generosity of a great and wonderful individual who
shared her liver with her, she may not be alive today.
It has been over three months
since the last entry. Dr. Lita Mathews received her living donor
transplant back on May 28, 2010. That wonderful and miraculous occasion took
place over four months ago. Since returning to Albuquerque New Mexico in late
June, Lita has been hanging pretty close to home. She has shown constant
improvement in her health. Dr. Lita has been regaining her strength each and
everyday. Her new liver is doing very well and is also growing. It should be
near full size in about two months. And the donor, Beverly Singer's liver
has returned to full size.
About one month after returning home, Lita's weekly
blood tests became slightly elevated in certain areas.
The Mayo Clinic asked Lita to return to Phoenix and the Mayo Clinic because their were issues that
needed to be checked out. During the exams at the Mayo Clinic the issue of
concern was a build up of scar tissue in the bile duct. This is a location
inside the liver where Lita and her new liver are joined. This is a very common
and expected issue with live liver recipients. An endoscopy procedure was
performed to place a stint in the bile duct and open the ever growing scar
tissue. During the healing period the scar tissue is known to develop.
A day after the endoscopic procedure was done, Derek &
Lita returned home again to Albuquerque. For the next two months Lita Mathews
continued on the road to recovery. Her daily routines were all slowly returning.
Her exercise routines were also increasing, and all her vital daily and weekly
exams continued to improve. During this time Dr. Lita was busy with several
projects. She read three novels, served as a judge for the Native fashions
competition at the Santa Fe Indian Market (SWIA), Attended the Taos Ski Valley
music Festival, and the New Mexico State Fair. For a small lady who recently has
undergone such major surgery, Lita's energy levels are high.
As the time moved forward toward Lita once again
returning to the Mayo Clinic for the scheduled four month check up. And as the
doctors and nurses at Mayo had told her, in four months she should have returned
to her normal lifestyle and doing the things in her life that is normal. For Dr.
Lita her goal was to return to the pow wow arena and dance in her buckskin
dress. So with that in mind the timing was perfect. On Thursday September
23rd. Lita and her family, (Derek & Melonie) headed west to California for the
Morongo Casino Pow Wow. It was at this event that Lita, for the first time since
the transplant had put on her beaded buckskin dress. Upon arriving at the arena
Lita was met with hellos and hugs from many people, dancers, singers and
others. Lita then lined up with her dance category and danced into the arena
during the grand entry. It was clear to all from the swaying of Lita's fringes
on her dress, her feet dancing forward to the rhythm of the drum, and the smile
on Lita's face that she was glad to be back. During the afternoon session she
danced ten inter-tribal songs and then danced two songs in the competition. Lita
was not competing however. After the dance contest was over and judging was
complete, all of the ladies who had just danced swarmed around Lita. It
was their way of welcoming her back into the arena. What a day for Lita! The Morongo Pow Wow ended on Sunday
afternoon. The next morning the Mathews family were on their way, east on I-10
to Phoenix and the mayo Clinic. On Tuesday Morning Lita began her scheduled four
month medical check up. This was to be three days of exams and blood tests. On
the fourth day a Mayo Clinic doctor once again performed an endoscopic procedure
to remove the stint from the bile ducts located in the liver. An endoscopic
procedure is done through the mouth, using a device with tools and a
camera. The device is carefully passed down through the throat and to the
liver. At the
end of the exams Lita, Melonie and Derek Then met with the doctors. The
doctors were very pleased to report that Lita is doing very well. Her Liver is
healthy and so far there is no return of the "Menace" Hepatitis C. The bile duct
was open and performing as it should. Her recovery is on track. As the three
of them left the mayo Clinic, Lita was reminded to go home and return to her
normal life. However back to normal Lita's daily life returns, it will be filled
up with good music, pow wows, dancing and the Gathering of Nations. The family
remains humble and continues to thank the many people who have sent good
feelings, prayers and financial help. It has been all of that and much more that
helped. THANK YOU!
Four Weeks Since
the Transplant: It
has now been four weeks since Dr. Lita Mathews underwent surgery to receive the
living donor liver transplant from Beverly Singer. In the process Lita received
sixty percent, or the larger lobe of the liver. The transplant was a phenom in
and on to itself. It was reported by Dr. Mulligan, the operating surgeon that as
soon as the liver was placed into Lita, that it began working immediately. Since
that time Dr. Lita's recovery has been remarkable. Within just a few hours after
the surgery, the nursing staff at the Mayo Clinic had her up and beginning to
walk. Each day, while remaining in the hospital her strength and movements
a couple of days before being released from the Mayo Clinic Hospital, Lita
received instructions from the occupational therapy department as to how to
begin exercising and movements which would safely return her to complete and
full strength. She also met with Jackie, the Transplant Coordinator. Jackie went
over the new medications which Lita would be taking to prevent rejection and
infections. It was amazing for Lita and her family to learn that after four
months past the transplant, she would be taking very few medications... It was
just a few minutes before leaving the hospital for the first time since the
liver transplant that Lita, Derek and Melonie were escorted to a location in the
hospital to take a look at Lita's old liver.
What they saw was a lesson in what
liver disease looks like. The liver was presented on a tray. It had been sliced
into sections to see the insides where the scarring was. The outside of the
liver showed the bumpy surface which was the actual cirrhosis. Please keep in
mind, Dr; Lita developed all of this problem from a bad blood transfusion over
30 years ago. However cirrhosis and liver disease can come from many other
sources. That being abuse of alcohol, and drugs, along with tattoos and body
piercing. It is the popularity of the tattoos and body piercing which is
expected to increase the number of people with liver disease in the future.
Immediate release from the hospital (just six days after transplant Lita and her
family, Derek and Melonie took up a temporary residence adjacent to the Mayo
Clinic campus Phoenix, where here out patient recovery program began. Lita
returned to the hospital twice each week to visit with doctors to mark her
progress. The schedule for the out patient doctor visits were through the second
week of July. So with that as a framework for the first portion of the summer,
Melonie has took charge of the disbursement schedule of the medications and
nutritional diet requirements, while Derek made his focus her physical recovery.
This included a daily exercise program and strength building.
the morning of June 24th, Lita along with her family, entered the Mayo Clinic -
Specialty Building for her bi-weekly exam. It began at 7:05 a.m. with the blood
tests, the followed by meetings and examinations with the Post Liver Transplant
Coordinator and two doctors. It was near the end of the morning exams with the
second and final doctor, when she looked up at Lita mentioned to her that this
was day 28 after the transplant and her recovery, with no complications was
going so well, that they were releasing her to go home. This news was fantastic,
and really too the family by surprise. On Saturday May 26th Dr. Lita Mathews and
her family returned home to Albuquerque. Lita, while at home must continue the
recovery program as it was developed while at the
Mayo Clinic and get routine
blood tests once each week. Over the next few days and weeks the number of
medications that lit is required to take will be scaled back . After just a few
months Lita's required daily required medication will be reduced to just one.
Lita will return to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix four months from the date of the
transplant for a check-up, and once per year there after.
the contrary of some who have been heard to say that Dr. Lita Mathews has an
incurable disease, the doctors and the transplant coordinators have informed the
family that she is cured and is now healthy. This is not to say that there are
not various health risks to be concerned with which are related to keeping her
new liver safe and healthy. But most can be prevented. They have told Lita that
within four to six months she should be able to resume the lifestyle she enjoys.
That includes returning to the pow wow arena as an active and competitive
Traditional Buckskin Dancer.
success and progress of the living donor transplant for Dr. Lita Mathews must be
attributed to the family-team approach, her spiritual faith, along with the
traditional Native medicines and doctoring, and the wonders of modern western
medicine. Due credit must go to the spiritual counseling from friends and the
healing Powers and counseling from some very special people from Santa Clara and
San Juan Pueblo, along with Albino Garcia (Jr.) and Leonard Crow Dog, for their
traditional doctoring practices and counseling which gave the family the
strength to make it through the ordeal. The medical team at the Mayo Clinic are
the best in the World. It was there determination and confidence which made it
happen. Dr. Mulligan, the surgeon who performed the transplant operation is a
great man. His steady hands along with his operating room assistants and the
great spirits watching and guiding his hands brought Lita and her family through
this difficult time and have given her the ability to look forward to a longer
and healthy life.
The greatest of all thanks goes to Dr. Beverly Singer, for the gracious gift
of her liver to Lita.
The family continues to thank the thousands of people around the world for
their prayers, get well wishes, and financial assistance. Dr. Lita Mathews
recovery will be on going for several months to come and continues to need your
prayers and financial help, as the hospital bills begin to arrive.
Dr. Lita Receives Liver Transplant: (This single entry by Derek Mathews) Yesterday, May 28, 2010 was a
huge day for us. It began at 5:00 a.m. with a prayer ceremony just outside our
hotel at the Mayo Clinic. Following that, we (Lita, her donor, Melonie, Me, and
3 other people) walked about a third of a mile to the doors of the Mayo Clinic
Hospital. On the way there we stopped to observe and take in the blessing from a
beautiful sunrise. The two of them checked in to the hospital at 5:30 am. They
were then taken to be prepped for surgery. The donor was first into surgery. Her
surgery began at 7:30 a.m. The donor liver was out, and they had begun to remove
Lita's old liver at just a few minutes before 10:30 a.m. The next word came at
about 11:06 a.m. that the donor liver had been placed into Lita and responded
and was working right away. It was not until after 4:00 p.m. when the head
surgeon came into the waiting room to tell us that the transplant was complete
and all had all went very well. His final words as he left was this was a
Now the healing begins. Lita will remain in the hospital for
about another week. Then she will return to stay with Melonie and me in the
hotel just outside the doors of the Mayo Clinic. She will have to return to the
hospital twice each week for outpatient visits for about four to five weeks.
28, 2010 will always be a special day in our lives. It is the day that Beverly
Singer gave the ultimate gift to Dr. Lita Mathews. That being another chance at
life. The doctors expect a complete recovery and she should be able to return to
the lifestyle she loves with in the next few months. There will be a few bumps
in the road ahead, but they are to be expected.
We just want to say thank
you for all the prayers and assistance given from the tens of thousands of
people who have shown their support from the beginning. All my relations. Photo: Beverly Singer and Dr. Lita Mathews taken just moments
before checking in at the Mayo Clinic to begin the living donor liver
Dr. Lita Mathews now scheduled for a Living Donor Liver
Transplant: It was in Friday April 23, at the start of
the Gathering of Nations pow wow, when Derek Mathews received the phone call
that the medical exams on the potential living donor had all gone well. To the
delight of the family, Derek announced the good news to the pow wow audience at
the start of the special women's stationary contest to honor Lita. The Audience
was pleased with the news as well. Throughout the weekend many people, dancers
and singers came forward to Lita, only to wish her the best and to tell her that
they were praying for her.
On Friday evening, Chief Leonard Crow Dog prayed for Lita and he too blessed
her, wishing her the best of health. He told her that she will come through it
all in a good way. He told her that she will soon be back to good health and
dancing again. Late on Saturday evening, before the close of the Gathering of
Nations Pow wow, Julius Not Afraid called Lita into the arena and blew his
whistle on the Midnite Express Drum to start a song. During the song he and
other dancers surrounded Lita and continued to blow their whistles. At the end
of the song, He told her of his love for her. He said that she has been a role
model for him ever since he was a little boy. It was Lita who has inspired him
to go to college to get a college education. He spoke of the fondness his family
has for her. He also remembered the time when his grand father came to
Albuquerque to bless the pow wow arena and to pray for the Mathews family. Terry
Fiddler later spoke to the audience to express the words of Julius.
The Liver transplant is now schedule for Friday May 28th, at the Mayo Clinic
in Phoenix Arizona. Lita will the be in the hospital for about a week to ten
days. Then she must remain in Phoenix for another six weeks or so for outpatient
check-ups twice each week. Derek & Melonie will remain close to Lita throughout
it all as they assist her with recovery.
The Mathews family is humbled by the many good wishes and the prayers of so
many. They want to thank everyone for their kindness and thoughts. it is the
strength and spiritual motivation necessary for them to get through it all.
Through the many years those who have known Dr. Lita and have been touched by
her kindness and generosity, truly understand the type of person that she is. As
Many of you know the cost of such and operation is very expensive. To assist
with the financing of the transplant, and if you choose to help, this can be
done by the purchase of her book and audio book, "A POW WOW SUMMER ACROSS NORTH
AMERICA". They are available on the Gathering of Nations web site (please scroll
down). All the proceeds from the sales will go into the account established to
assist with expenses related to her hospital bills. No Money from the
Gathering of Nations has been used to assist with her health expenses.
Dr. Lita returns to Mayo Clinic for a
returning home from the visit at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Dr. Lita has had
her ups and downs. To begin to explain, we shall begin by telling you that the
treatment which was done to stabilize the tumor on February 13th was a bit
traumatic. The chemo medication left Lita weak and throwing up for several
days after. Because of her small body size and her body being unfamiliar with
heavy drugs, the pain medications and anesthetics used during the minor surgery
took over a week to wear off. However after a week at home, Lita rapidly began
to return to her normal self and soon began to regain her strength. On or about
March 5th, Lita noticed that her hair was beginning to fall out. This was a very
tragic and traumatic experience for her. Her hair was the pride of her dad, who
prior to his passing, several years ago, asked her to never cut her hair. And in
his memory Dr. Lita had sponsored the long hair contest at the Gathering of
Nations powwow. She has lost a lot of hair, but not all.
On March 12th, Derek and Lita headed West out of
Albuquerque to attend the powwow at Cal State Long Beach University. The weekend
in the open California air was good for the two of them. The people attending
the powwow were very happy to see Lita. There were smiles and hugs from many. As
it has been evident through out this difficult period, the sounds of the drums
and the well wishes from the people have proven to be an instant soul healing
for Lita. This weekend Lita Mathews dressed out in her traditional clothing and
participated in the powwow. Over the two days of the powwow she danced several
intertribals, and even competed in the contest. To her surprise and delight she
got third place. This was only the second time that Lita had danced in the past
two years. It was at Cal State Long Beach, two years ago, Dr. Lita was awarded
with first place in the Women's Northern Traditional category. Just three weeks
after that event, she was hospitalized with the bleeding internally which was
the first discovery of her health condition related to the Hepatitis C. Also at
the powwow Lita's friend Luisa Blue Eyes had a special honor song for her.
Nearly all the people came out to shake her hand, hug her, and dance with her.
What a way to end a great weekend.
next day Derek and Lita pointed their big black truck East and headed to
Phoenix, Arizona, where she had a scheduled two day appointment at the Mayo
Clinic. The purpose of this appointment was to examine her and to check the
procedure done one month ago to stabilize the tumor in her liver. At the end of
the second day at the mayo Clinic, Dr. Douglas told Lita that the stabilization
procedure was a success and the tumor was not growing. He also told them that
one of the candidates who had offered to become a living liver donor for Lita
had passed the preliminary tests and they were ready to move her forward and
bring her to the Mayo Clinic for the complete battery of medical exams and
prepare (hopefully) for the liver transplant. The candidate has now been
scheduled to begin the exams on Monday April 19th. That is the week leading into
the Gathering of Nations PowWow. How coincidental that it will be that week,
exactly two years since Lita's health journey began.
The Special honor contest for Dr. Lita Mathews at the
Gathering of Nations for Women's Stationary dancers will be very special. The
healing power of the songs and dance will be very positive as the family prepare
for the major portion of healing Lita and returning her to good health. They
hope that all of you will come to Albuquerque for the PowWow and to wish Lita
well. If all goes well with the exams for the donor, they hope to schedule the
Liver transplant for Mid May at the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Lita Travels to the Mayo Clinic: On Monday February 8th, at 8:00 a.m., Dr. Lita and her
family traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix Arizona for her to begin the
grueling week-long medical evaluation for her to become a liver transplant
candidate. Her evaluation began with blood tests followed by numerous medical
exams and consultations with various doctors. There were various body scans,
mammograms, bone density tests, psychological exams, and more blood tests.
five days of exams proved that Lita Mathews was in good health, other than she
had a tumor in her liver and the bad news that the Hepatitis C virus had
returned. The viral count was even higher than detected when she began the Hep C
treatment in October of 2008. However the doctors at the Mayo Clinic did not
believe that the Hep C would prevent the liver transplant. And since the Hep C
had taken more than 25 or 30 years to create the critical situation she was in,
in April 2008, with dietary and lifestyle precautions she could expect to live
an improved and significant length of life. This was somewhat consoling to the
family, while at the same time one more disheartening blow. The fact that Dr.
Lita had successfully completed one of the most grueling chemotherapy treatments
known. Her doctor and caretaker back in Albuquerque were also devastated by the
news. However, at the start it was known that the Hep C treatment was not a sure
cure, but the odds of returning would be very low.
So Lita, Melonie, and Derek left the Mayo
Clinic for the weekend to digest the news. On Saturday, February 13th, they
traveled across Phoenix to attend the annual Hoop Dance Contest. Upon arrival,
hearing the drums immediately was soothing to their weary mental state. Talking
with Dennis Bowen the announcer and others, the day in the warm Phoenix sun
slowly raised their spirits and helped to move their minds temporarily away from
the issue. On Sunday they spent the day at the Phoenix zoo. At the zoo they
spent the day walking and enjoying the sights and focusing on the caged animals.
A large portion of their discussions were considering how the lives of the
animals might have been if they were free of the limited environment. The
Mathews as a family possess a free spirit. If it was not for that they perhaps
could not survive the many ups and downs that Lita's health challenges have
At the end of the day, Dr. Lita and her family left the zoo and
headed to a New Mexican style restaurant (Arriba's) in Phoenix. Just before they
got out of their black Chevy truck, Dr. Lita's cell phone rang. On the other end
was a dear friend of Lita's. She was attending a powwow in Southern California.
Patricia Lopez was very aware of the devastating news about the return of the
Hep C and the need for a liver transplant. Arlie Neskahi, who along with his dad
wrote the Gathering of Nations Song in 1986, was the announcer for the powwow.
Patricia had talked to Arlie about Lita, and he decided to give her a call
during the powwow and to do his part to lift her spirits and to send all the
blessings to her and the family that he could. Arlie talked to Lita and then
sang the Gathering of Nations Song and his father's song. The songs were
composed and sung in the Navajo language. For Lita, Melonie, and Derek this was a
very special moment. It was the spirit and strength builder for them that they
needed, as they were preparing for what was to take place back at the Mayo
Clinic the very next day. At the end of the songs, Lita had the opportunity to
speak to thank Arlie Neskahi and Patricia Lopez for this special moment. She
also thanked the audience, who during the song stood in silence.
On Monday Morning,
February 15th, at 6:00 a.m. Lita was admitted to the hospital at the Mayo Clinic
to undergo chemotherapy treatment to stabilize and shrink the tumor in her liver. The
treatment was said by the doctors and medical staff to have gone very well.
However she had to remain overnight in the hospital to recover and to sleep of
the heavy sedation and medications for pain. On Tuesday afternoon she was
released from the Mayo Clinic to begin her journey home. The treatment to
stabilize the tumor allows time for the results from the week-long examination
to be compiled, and for the Mayo Clinic transplant team to consider if she will
be a good candidate for the live liver transplant. At the time of this report,
the results are pending. If she is considered for the live donor
transplant, it is expected to take place shortly after the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, April 23 & 24, 2010. This gives the time needed to bring forward the
three potential donors who have a blood type match with Dr. Lita. Each of them
will have to undergo a medical evaluation, similar the one Lita went through.
If all goes well and the transplant from a living donor will take place, Lita
will get another and deserved chance at life. If the candidates for the live
donor transplant do not work out, she will the be on the waiting list for a
It has been a long road for Lita Mathews and her family, but
their determination and strength is founded on their focus as champions and the
many prayers, ceremonies, and well wishes from people around the world. The
Mathews family invites and hopes to see all who read this blog and others at the
Gathering of Nations Pow wow, to publicly thank all of them. Without their help
this battle may have not been able to be fought.
calls the Mathews
Family, Dr. Lita Mathews
approved for Liver
Transplant: This morning the Mayo
Clinic called the
Mathews family with the
good news that Dr. Lita Mathews has been approved for the transplant. They now have recommended
that all of her potential donors call the Mayo Clinic to begin the screening
process. If all goes well with her donors, the transplant could take place in
earl May. If there are any others with the O+ blood type who would like to be
considered to become here liver transplant donor, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org as
soon as possible.
Dr. Lita Mathews Takes On Another
As a standard
procedure at the conclusion of the treatment for Hep C, internal exams are
performed. On December 29th an MRI was done. The results were given to the
family on Friday January 8th. The results of the MRI showed that Lita's liver
had developed a small cancer. Similar exams were done every 6 months through the
treatment period. All the other previous tests showed that Lita remained cancer
free. This cancer developed sometime since the June 2009 exam. At the start of
the treatment for Hep C, Lita was told that there was a three percent chance of
cancer developing within the liver.
The recommendation now is for Lita to receive a
liver transplant. Derek and Melonie have already begun the process for the
University of New Mexico Hospital to make the referral for Lita to go to the
Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Arizona to get it all started. The first step is for
her to receive an evaluation to determine the severity of the cancer and to
begin preparations for the transplant.
Currently nationwide, there are approximately six
thousand people on the waiting list for liver transplants. However if she can
get a family match that would be the ideal. Last weekend a family meeting with
Dr. Lita's family was called to let them all know what is going on. Lita's
youngest sister and two nieces immediately offered to be considered as donors.
Since that family meeting, as word of this news
about Lita began to spread throughout the country, several people have also said
that they would be willing to be considered as donors. If a living match can be
found, the liver transplant could possibly happen in late February or Early
March. During the transplant surgery, the donor will give Lita half of their
liver. The liver in both Lita and the donor will grow back to full size and
There are 2 positives here however. The Hep C
seems to be gone. However the doctors will check again in 6 months. The other
positive is with a new liver, Lita should be completely done with this medical
issue. Since the Hep C treatment ended on December 1st, Lita has been getting
stronger every day and it has been very noticeable. Doctor Arora told her that
until the match is found and the transplant is done, she must continue
exercising, doing the things that she likes to do, and make her body as strong
and healthy as possible.
Should any one choose to be considered as a
living donor for Dr. Lita, please leave an e mail message at: getwelldrlita @
gatheringofnations.com (no spaces in the email address). In the email please
include name, address, age, phone number and blood type. Individuals choosing to
become a donor should be between 18 and 55 years of age, and in good health.
Dr. Lita wants everyone to know that she and her
family are so thankful of all those who have sent prayers and good thoughts to
her. Once again it will be very helpful for her and the family to receive those
words of encouragement from those who care. She believes in the power of prayer
and spiritual energy. She also believes that the songs from the big drums and
the powwow people in the arena will be helpful to her. She continues to look
forward to returning to the arena to dance. Her own spirit is there and she
wants to again wear her dresses and dance with her friends.
The special contest for Women's' Traditional -
Stationary style dancing is still planned for the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow
in April. Lita's wants it to be known that all women who dance the stationary
style are invited to participate. It means a lot to her and her family for
everyone to be there and participate. The Gathering of Nations Web Site will
make additional entries to this blog when there is significant information to be
If you have blood type "O" (negative or positive)
and are interested in donating a liver or if you would like to send a get well
message to Dr. Lita, please email getwelldrlita @ gatheringofnations.com. (no
spaces in the email address). Your generous liver donation will save Lita's
Dr. Lita Mathews completes
treatment for Hep C, Dr. Arora: It
was Tuesday December 1st, the day Dr. Lita Mathews received her last treatment
for the recovery from the Hepatitis C virus. The treatment length of time was
fifteen months of intense and chemo-like therapeutic treatments. However through
it all Lita handled it very well. She and her family were determined to attack
the virus both from a medical and a spiritual approach. It is believed that the
combination of the two resulted in the success of reducing the virus to
non-detectable levels and the healing of her damaged liver.
The last month however was a challenge
as the anxiety towards the end grew near. During this time Dr. Arora increased
the dosage of the medication. This was to finish off the virus. With this would
be the expectations of greater and additional side effects. However Dr. Lita did
not feel too much of the wrath of side effects. There was an increased head &
body aches the day after her injections were given. Throughout the treatment her
spirit and energy levels remained strong.
Even though the treatments have ended,
there remains the months ahead to now recover and re-gain her strength. Lita was
told that the medication will take about five to six months to completely be
eliminated from her body. Over the next few weeks she will begin a calculated
exercise program. Her intention is to return to dancing in about three months.
Dr. Arora has asked her to return to the University of New Mexico Hospital
Clinic in six months for a follow up visit.
Also during this recovery period, Dr.
Lita will return to her position, working hard to publish the 2010 Gathering of
Nations Program Book, and preparing for her annual book give. The 2010 Gathering
of Nations is very special for her. It was just days before the start of the
2008 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow when she was hospitalized with ruptured veins
in her throat. It was at that time that prayers and miracles saved her life. The
timing to the emergency room was critical. Then after the bleeding had been
stopped, the family was informed that most people who suffer in this way seldom
recover and die within six weeks. Lita proved them wrong. The veins not only
were healed, the doctor reported that they were gone.
The rest is written about back
throughout the many weeks of this blog. Out of the humbleness of Lita and her
family, she has chosen to honor all the dancers whom dance her style of dancing,
Women's Stationary. There will be a contest at the 2010 Gathering of Nations Pow
wow for this style of dancing.
Over the many years of dancing, she has been a champion
many times. She has made many friends and believes that the give away is a
humble way to return to the arena. Once again she has become a champion,
defeating Hep C. The women's Stationary Contest will feature $2,000.00 first
place and a vacation for two. Dr. Lita Mathews used her illness to bring focus
to the viral disease of Hepatitis C among Native people. It is a silent killer
which many Natives and others carry. She is the story of hope and faith that it
can be over-come.
Dr. Lita is excited about the contest and the 2010
Gathering of Nations Pow wow. She hopes to see all Native women who dance this
style in the contest. This entry closes Dr. Lita's blog. Lita, Melonie & Derek
invite everyone to the 2010 Gathering of Nations Pow wow!. They once again wish
to thank everyone for their prayers, well wishes and concern. Without it her
recovery could not have been possible.
Well as the time winds down on Lita's treatment for Hepatitis C,
she continues to do remarkably well. Let it be clearly understood that the
treatment regiment is extreme. As matter of fact there are so many people who
for one reason or another cannot complete the treatment program. The injections
of medication along with all of the other pills and weekly blood tests that are
required to get through it are intense. And through it all Dr. Lita has become a
model patient. Her determination to get through it has been remarkable.
of weeks ago Lita along with her doctor were invited to speak at the New Mexico
Hep C Alliance conference. Lita, Melonie and Derek discussed with the group
assembled, her history of Hep C and how she has been getting through the
treatment. And how she and the family have worked as a team throughout the
treatment program. As a family there support has truly been there. It has been
the attention of all three of them to see that Lita gets through it. Her diet,
exercise, rest, blood test, etc have all been the daily and weekly tasks. When
Lita's Doctor, Dr. Arora spoke, he acknowledged her as a remarkable individual.
He then also mentioned the great experience he had at the 2009 Gathering of
Nations Pow Wow.
It was his first, and he hopes to be there again in 2010. Dr. Arora is an international leading physician in the field of Hepatitis C. How
lucky for Lita that his home is Albuquerque and University of New Mexico
Hospital is his base. Since treatment began for Lita, she has made it her cause
bring a focus on the treatment of Hep C. Dr. Arora was extremely happy to be
able to reach Native people and so many others through the Gathering of Nations
and it's network.
One of the few trips that
the Mathews have made this summer was to Morongo, a couple of weeks ago. It was
overwhelming how the dancers and drums acknowledged Lita with hugs and smiles.
Not only can it be said that there is healing in the songs and the dances, but
in the hugs and smiles as well. It also demonstrated that the people in the
arena, are as one family.
The fall season of 2009 has arrived. Dr. Lita
Mathews has just 6 1/2 weeks to the completion of treatment for Hep C. The road
has been long, but the finish line is now in sight. When the treatment ends on
December 1st there will be several weeks/months of recovery and strengthening.
She looks forward to seeing everyone at the 'Gathering', and return to dancing
by the late spring and next summer.
remaining of Hep C
treatments, powwow arena
The long awaited fall
season has arrived. With the start of September, Dr. Lita has just three months
remaining in her medical treatment for the Hepatitis C virus. Everyone, doctors
and nurses included, are astonished at how well she has handled it all. The
doctor has increased the treatment dosage to improve the odds that the virus
will never return. At the same time the doctor has prescribed another medication
to boost her white blood cells and improve the quality of her immune system.
Lita was told that with the increase in
medication there could be added side effects of headaches, aches in the bones,
and the possibility of a reduction in red blood cells. When the increased
treatment dosage and the second injection was first given, Lita did experience
some of the headaches, stomach aches, and body pains. However due to the active
life she has been accustomed to, Derek has been able to get her out a few
mornings each week at sunrise for about a one mile walk. The doctor recommended
for her to continue with moderate exercise, and it has aided to ease the pains.
And to keep her red blood cell count high, Derek has increased her diet to
include large portions of fresh berries and dark green vegetables. This too has
proven to work.
Dr. Lita's last blood test showed that her white
blood cells were nearing normal, and the red cell count was normal. Normal blood
cell counts will help Lita to ward off the threats of H1N1 flu and other virus.
The stomach aches were eliminated with a cold cup of ginger ale. Ginger is an
excellent a natural remedy for nausea and upset stomach discomfort. The family
continues to live on the faith and belief that the traditional ways and the well
wishes of many have been a major factor in how well she has done so far.
Dr. Lita Mathews is committed to her beliefs
about the healing which the powwow arena, with it's songs and sights of the
dancers also serve in the healing process. A few weeks ago, Melonie danced to
aid in Lita's spiritual healing at the Feast Day celebration in Santa Clara
Pueblo. That was a great day for Lita and her family. The Mathews family are
excited about their involvement in the Pow Wow at the New Mexico State fair,
later this month in Albuquerque, and her return to dancing next spring.
Counting down the weeks
to the end of
treatments: It is now mid-summer, August 1st and Dr. Lita Mathews is
counting down the weeks to the end of the treatments. The last day of the
treatments will be December 1. At this point in the treatments, the doctor and
his staff remain very impressed with how well she has handled this tough ordeal.
Lita's weekly blood tests continue to show improvement and the liver is
healing. Her diet and weight is important to keeping her healthy as she moves
through the later weeks. Derek has really been focusing in on the proper and
healthy type of foods for Lita's diet. The doctor recommend to minimize red meats,
while eating high levels of protein rich foods. Fruit, melons, and dark green
veggies are the best.
With the looming deadly Swine Flue Virus closing
in, The doctor has recommended and is now giving Lita another weekly injection.
This medication is to boost her immune system so that she can resist infections
and the flu. Because of the new medication and it's added side effects, Derek,
Lita, & Melonie have had to modify their travel through the remainder of the
summer. Lita tires easily in the extreme heat and exhaustion could become the
catalyst to lowering her immune levels and thus she could become very sick. It
has been an interesting summer for them all. It is also expected that when the
Swine Flue vaccine becomes available, she will be at the head of the line to
As the fall approaches they will have to make sure that Lita
avoids crowds, sick people, hand shakes and hugs. When the treatments conclude
in December, Dr. Lita will have several months of recovery. It is expected that
by the 2010 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in April, she will be near to full
strength. She will be ready to go and excited about her return to the arena to
dance. Her women's Buckskin - Stationary special contest will make the way for
her re-entry. 1st place in the contest will be $2,000.00 along with other
prizes. The contest is presented as a thank you to the many people throughout
this time who have sent their prayers and get well wishes.
Lita wants to say thank you to the many traditional dancers who have been there
for her with words of encouragement. Even more, this has become the way Lita and
Derek have chosen to place focus on this very deadly disease, Hepatitis C. It is
a silent killer and is believed that many Native people may have Hep C and
either are living with it silently and not seeking treatment, or do not even
know that they have it.
Since the Gathering, Dr.
Lita Mathews has
continued her treatment
for Hepatitis C. It was
believed that the stress from the Gathering had little effect on her condition. However, in a
blood test taken 3 weeks after the Gathering, results showed some increased
levels in the concerns for her liver recovery. This may have been brought on by
the excessive headache that she had which lasted for several days. After a
correction to her diet with increased vegetables and fruits along with yogurt,
the next 2 blood tests were much improved and actually showed near normal
Her most current exams have shown that the treatment is working.
The medical team at UNMH are very impressed with how well she is handling it
all. Dr. Lita and her family have been extremely careful as to not allow her to
become fatigued, because this could effect her immune system. The tests on her
white blood cells has remained at a constant (.6) even though this is a bit low
for a normal person, this level is expected for a patient receiving treatment
for Hep C. The medical staff at the University of New Mexico Hospital have not
yet prescribed any medication to raise the white blood cell levels.
Lita, Derek, and Melonie will be on the road this summer attending powwow s and
other functions. Her energy levels are not yet high enough to dance
competitively, however she feels that the sound of the drums and being around
friends is another part of her healing. The treatments will come to an end on
December 1st. At that time, as her strength returns, she will begin an active
exercise and training program to get her ready for a full summer of dancing in
Dr. Lita Mathews wishes everyone a great summer on the powwow trail
and hopes to see many of you out there.
Dr. Lita continues to do well
while undergoing the treatment for Hep C. Her doctors cleared her to attend the
Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, provided she did not get overly stressed or do any
work. Her energy level is limited, so Derek provided a golf cart for her to get
up and down the steep ramp at the bottom of the Pit. He also had a small
motor home parked behind Stage 49 so that she would have a place to rest during
the long hours of the pow wow. It was difficult for her to just sit and watch
but she did and really enjoyed watching the dance and hearing the sounds of the
most awesome drum groups in Indian Country. The people who stopped by the
announcer stand to greet her really filled her heart with joy.
As most of you know the Gathering of Nations Pow wow
is the life's work of the Mathews family. They are extremely happy to know that
so many people enjoy the work that they do. Dr. Lita while being limited by the
amount of physical work that she could do this year, worked with Rusty Gillette
to produce the fantastic program book. She also provided needed encouragement to
Melonie and Derek to stay strong and to make the Pow wow and the Miss Indian
World Pageant the best possible.
Dr. Lita has been cleared by her doctors to do
limited travel this summer, provided her health and immune system stay at a safe
level. So, you will see the Mathews' on the Pow wow trail from time to time
throughout the summer. Lita will not be dancing competitively until her
treatment for Hepatitis C is complete at the end of December. Next year at the
Gathering, she will host and sponsor a special contest for Women's Buckskin -
Stationary style dancing. The contest will offer fantastic prize money and other
prizes. All of the information will be on the 2010 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow
Once again Dr. Lita and her family are so
grateful to all who have sent their prayers and well wishes for her recovery. It
assisted her in getting through the most difficult of chemotherapy treatments.
She is humbled by it all and will never forget it.
6 months of treatments
for Hep C Completed: Dr. Lita has now completed
six months of treatment for Hep C. From all who have attempted or is familiar
with the treatment, have been impressed with how well she has been doing. To
date the side effects continue to be minimal. Current blood test have shown that
there are improvements in all areas. The virus has been reduced to below the
negative level and remains so. Her liver is showing much improvement and
The family truly believes that the Native medicine and all it's
procedures, along with the many prayers and well wishes from so many people have
contributed to her success thus far. Derek and Melonie believe that the spirits
have been her guardians and have transferred many of the side effects to them.
They have experienced many of the side effects which are typical of the Hep C
treatment, such as body aches and all the flue like symptoms. However they both
have expressed that it is worth it in order to get Dr. Lita through it
successfully. The family want to express extreme gratitude to "Jr" Albeno Garcia
lll for all that he has done spiritually to heal Lita's liver and to rid the
virus from her body. And also to Luci Yates, the nurse at the University of New
Mexico Hospital who has been giving her the weekly injections. Lucy has become a
family friend and councilor.
Dr. Lita wants to encourage all who attend the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow to
stop by the UNM Hep C booth in the tent to learn more about this disease. Those
who have tattoos on their bodies are at a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis
C. She invites everyone who reads this to please come to the 2009 Gathering of
Nations Pow Wow. She believes that the Gathering is also part of her recovery,
and everyone who attends plays an important part.
Back at the GON
Office: Dr. Lita is
doing very well. Now over four months into the treatment
for Hep C, she continues to experience few and not too
severe side effects. The head and body aches seem to be
the primary side effects.
She has been working everyday at her desk in the
Gathering of Nations office, working on the 2009 program
book. Each year the Gathering of Nations Program book is
published with her guidance and supervision.
Lita is looking forward to this year's Pow Wow as it
marks one year since being hospitalized. It will be a
corner turned as she looks forward to recovery and
returning to the arena as a traditional dancer.
When at the Gathering of Nations, be sure to visit the
University of New Mexico Hospital HEP C booth in the tent
at the south end.
Songs and Dancers, help her spirit and
enhance healing process:
received some great news on New Year's Eve. The University of New Mexico
Hospital called her to inform her that the most recent blood test which she had
taken about a week earlier showed that she was now Hep C free. This means the
Hepatitis viral count was now negative. Lita danced around the room is pure
joy. However this does not mean that the treatments will end.
There is still a
lot of work to be done to make sure that the hepatitis does not return and that
her liver continues to heal. As of now, the treatments will come to an end in
early December 2009. Until then she must limit her activities and being among
indoor crowds, as the risk of infection and colds remains high. She looks
forward the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow and realizes that she must limit
her activities at that time but feels as though the songs and the dances will
help her spirit and to enhance the healing process.
Derek & Melonie hope that all of you
will come to Albuquerque in April for the Gathering of Nations to enjoy the
event and to show support and encouragement for her recovery.
For the past
11 weeks, Dr. Lita Mathews has been receiving treatment for the Hepatitis C
Virus. She's responding exceptionally well to the treatment. Lita has been
experiencing a few side-effects, such as diarrhea and mild exhaustion. The
treatment has thinned her hair a little, but has not experienced any baldness as
she was warned that one of the side-effects of the treatment can cause thinning
hair. Dr. Mathews has been able to continue working and living normally with the
exception of extensive travel.
Unfortunately, Lita is unable to be
in large crowds or in any environment where the possibility of her catching a
cold is likely due to the fact that her immune system is weakened from the
medication that treats the Hep C virus. She will continue treatment and will be
tested in the next couple weeks to find out the viral count. Her last viral
count showed a significant drop in the amount of virus in her body and her
doctors are confident that she will be viral-free upon the results of the next
test. Once she is considered viral-free, she will remain on treatment for one
year, to ensure the complete eradication of the Hepatitis C Virus.
With Christmas a few days away, she
wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and is very thankful for all of the prayers
and positive thoughts that she has received.
Dr. Lita is
now over six weeks into this extensive treatment to heal her body of the
Hepatitis C virus. On November 4th Lita had another blood test. This particular
blood test measured the viral count of the Hepatitis C. The results were read
and reported back to Lita on Friday November 7th. The results of the first
month's treatment were very good. The treatments are working! Dr, Lita's viral
count prior to the start of the treatments was at 1,900,000 parts per million.
The current blood test showed the viral count at only 348 parts per million.
This is very good results as it showed that her body has responded positively to
The goal is to reduce the viral count to zero parts per million.
The doctors believe that a zero parts per million count is coming very soon.
Even though the viral count is lowering rapidly and expected to be reduced to
zero parts per million very soon, the treatments have been extended for an
additional nine weeks. This extension is to ensure that the Hepatitis virus is
gone and Lita is cured. The blood test also have shown an improvement in liver
Overall Dr. Lita is handling the
treatments very well with few side effects so far. On few occasions she has had
some body and head aches. She also has tired easily as well. Upon looking at
her, she looks like she is in the best of health. She has not lost weight or had
any other visible effects of the treatment. At her last meeting with the doctor
they told her they were very pleased with her progress but warned of the risk of
potential infections and colds. This is due to the treatments are lowering her
white blood cells. This is normal and to be expected. The doctor told her that
if the white blood cells drop too low she will then receive another medication
to help bring the cell count back up to an acceptable and safe level. It is the
white blood cells which help the body to fight infection. This is one of the
many reasons why through this time Lita must avoid being in crowds and to avoid
Dr. Lita, Melonie and Derek have the
confidence of the Medical team at UNM. Their attention to Lita has been
comforting. Dr. Ahora is world famous in this field of medicine. Once again the
family wishes to thank everyone for their concern and prayers. They feel that
they have helped to make this difficult time bearable. She is looking forward to
getting back to dancing sometime late next summer. She enjoys dancing and it is
her personal passion.
treatments (Pegasys and
Copegus): Lita began
the medical treatments to fight and rid the Hepatitis C from her body. The days
of waiting and preparation to begin the treatments were long and tense. Prior to
starting the treatment she was given a pneumonia shot as well as the current flu
shot. As she was told these are precautionary measures as the treatment will
attack the white blood cells as it fights the virus. This leaves her vulnerable
to catching colds and the flu.
The treatment consist of two medications. The first is called Pegasys
This medication is intended to reduce the amount of Hepatitis C in the body. One
injection weekly is required. The second medication is called Copegus (Ribavirin).
This medication is taken every day in pill form. It's job is to stop the
Hepatitis C virus from spreading or multiplying. Together Pegasys and Copegus
help get rid of the infected cells and keep healthy cells from becoming
infected. Thus allowing the liver to begin repair.
Since Dr. Lita began the treatments, three weeks ago, she has had only minor
side effects to the medication. Her most recent blood tests indicated that the
treatments are going well. They even showed that there was some improvement in
her liver function. The Mathews family was very pleased with the results of the
test, while realizing that Lita still has a long way to recovery. The total time
of the treatments is 48 weeks. During that time her travel will remain near non
Spiritually Dr. Lita is doing real well. She and her family have also have gone
to the Sun-dance in Ft Hall this past summer. And just a couple of weeks ago a
sweat and Lakota style tobacco ceremony was held, in Albuquerque, in her honor.
It was requested and sponsored by Becky Taylor of Hayward, Wisconsin. Many
friends and family were in attendance.
The Family thanks Becky along with all the people who continue to pray for her
recovery. They are so deeply humbled.
of September 5, 6, & 7 Dr. Lita fulfilled her commitment to the Sycuan Tribe of
California by attending the pow wow and serving as their Northern Head Lady
Dancer. On Saturday afternoon Lita had her honoring dance and give-away. Derek
spoke on her behalf to the people. He began by telling them about how this was
the biggest moment of her summer, as she was determined to be well enough and
strong enough to make the trip. He went on to explain to the people about he
illness and the road of recovery ahead. The people came out in mass to hug her,
shake her hand and to pray for her. It was a very moving time as the drum group,
The Boyz honored her by singing the Gathering of Nations Song.
Rick Yazzie, a fancy dancer along
with others mentioned that when they returned home they would be sponsoring
sweats and other ceremonies to pray for her. Rick place on of the Get Well Dr.
Lita Mathews wrist bands on his out fit and told her that he would be dancing
for her each weekend until she was cured of the hepatitis C and liver disease.
He told her that his family and the Mathews family were as close as one family,
and how important it is for her to get well and return healthy to the pow wow
Later on Saturday another man came
forward to tell her about his encounter with hepatitis C and liver disease. He
said that he had gone through the treatments two years ago and was now
completely healed. He want on to say that the scaring of his liver and the liver
disease was completely gone. The Mathews family was extremely pleased with this
as it was all positive concerning Lita's road to recovery.
In just a few days Lita will begin
the treatments to begin fighting the Hepatitis C. The length of the treatments
will be form eight to forty-eight weeks. It is also expected to have several
side effects, such as itching, lack of appetite, lowered immune system and
depression. It has been said that not everyone experiences all or any of theses
Currently all of Dr. Lita's medical
exams have been good and have shown positive signs that she will make it through
the treatments successfully. Lita continues to thank everyone for all of the get
well wishes and prayers. She truly believes that the pow wow people are all
members are a unique group and comprise a huge extended family.
Long and Rough
Road to Recovery: Dr. Lita is
doing exceptionally well. She and her family would like to thank the many
well-wishers for their concern and prayers. Even though she is doing better at
this time, there remains a long and what could be a rough road to recovery.
Since being released form the hospital on April 24th, Lita has had numerous
checkups consisting of blood tests and a CT scan. At each examination, Dr. Lita
has shown a near miraculous recovery. It has been through these many exams that
it has been determined by medical staffs at both Presbyterian Hospital and The
University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque that her recovery treatments
will begin in mid-September and are expected to last about a year. The treatment
will be administered by the UNMH staff and supervised by one of the Worlds
leading physicians in the field.
At Dr. Lita's last medical exam, she was told that she could begin to travel
again and prepare to dance, if she chose to. The next day after that exam, Lita
and Derek traveled to Fort Hall, Idaho to attend the Sundance. It was there that
Dr. Lita was taken into the circle to receive a special blessing from the sun
dancers. Roseann Abrahamson and her family hosted the Mathews. Roseann not only
made way for Dr. Lita to receive this blessing, but she included her in many of
the family activities outside and away from the arbor. These activities included
the gathering of many of the natural elements and plant life which the dancers
needed to sustain themselves. For Lita this brought back memories of when she
was a young girl and assisted her grandmother who used many natural plants for
medicinal and spiritual purposes throughout Northern New Mexico. Lita is very
grateful for the opportunity to have attended. The power of the prayers and the
blessing will assist to give her the strength and courage to go forward.
Until the treatments begin, Dr. Lita, Derek, and Melonie will be on the powwow
trail attending powwows. Lita hopes to dance and is the Head Lady Dancer the
second weekend in September at the Sycuan Pow wow. She is hoping that many of
you can attend. When the treatments begin, her travels will nearly stop for that
time. However the doctors believe that after the treatments are completed, Lita
will once again be strong and healthy.
Dr. Lita Mathews at home
recovering - 1st Blog Entry:
On the Morning of April 22nd, just three days before the start
of the 25th annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, Dr. Lita Mathews was rushed to
an Albuquerque hospital suffering from bleeding ulcers. It was to her amazement
and graciousness of a higher spirit that the people at the hospital, in the
emergency room knew her and were able to get her immediate attention needed to
save her life. Dr. Lita. A co-producer of the Gathering of Nations with her
husband Derek and daughter Melonie, is at home recovering. She has a long road
to go and needs your help and get well wishes.
The bleeding ulcers were the result
of a blood transfusion which she was given more than 30 years ago. The blood
transfusion was tainted. The tainted blood affected her liver in ways which now
make it difficult for her blood to clot properly. When admitted to the hospital
she was near death. Her blood was at zero percent oxygen and they had to give
her several units of blood. Her body responded to the attention and medication.
The doctors were amazed at her great physical condition. This was a direct
result of her daily exercise program and her competitive dancing at many Pow
Wows throughout the year.
The doctors released her from the
hospital a couple of days early in order for her to attend the Gathering of
Nations Pow Wow. They knew that this was where her spirit would receive
nourishment. However, it was advised that she not do any work at the pow wow.
Since the end of the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow many people have sent along
their get well wishes. When first released from the hospital the doctors
instructed her to limit travel, and dancing was out of the question. Since that
time several of her exams have shown enough improvement that when she regains
full strength, she may begin limited travel and dancing.
Dr. Lita is hopeful to return to the
pow wow trail in late July. She has been invited to serve as the Head Lady
Dancer for the Sycuan Pow Wow in September. Dr. Lita says that she is determined
to hold her promise to the Sycuan people and be there in September as their head
lady Dancer. The Sycuan Reservation Resort and Casino is located just a few
miles East of San Diego. Dr. Lita would like to encourage everyone to join her
The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow for Lita and her
family is their life's work. The joy of bringing smiles, cultural pride and
opportunity to Native people is what excites her. She has been involved in the
educational components of the Gathering of Nations as well as making
recommendations and sponsorship of the many acts of kindness the Gathering of
Nations has been able to deliver. Lita's involvement in the Pow Wow world is
critical. She has a smile for nearly everyone in the arena all of the time.
Dr. Lita Mathews received her PhD from the
University of New Mexico in 1999. Since that time she has used her degree and
efforts to bring a cultural and educational focus upon Native Americans. She has
been an inspiration and role model to many who have chosen to pursue higher
education. Jennifer Young Bear is the first recipient of the Dr. Lita Mathews
Graduate Scholarship at the University of New Mexico. She is very proud of
Jennifer who is now one semester from graduation and is maintaining a 4.0 grade
point average. Jennifer Young Bear is a Jingle Dress dancer from New Town, North
The expenses related to her recovery are very
high. At this time she asks that if anyone would like to assist with the cost of
her recovery to please purchase either her book (A Powwow Summer Across North
America) or the audio book of the same title.
The Doctors continue to evaluate Lita to see if
she is a candidate for treatment. There are many factors to be considered before
such an evasive treatment is begun. If and when the treatments begin they will
last for approximately one year.
We thank everyone for the many get well wishes
and concern. This is the most difficult time in not only Lita's life but for
Derek and Melonie as well. While at home in Albuquerque, we will continue to
make plans for the 2009 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
We are looking forward to seeing all of you then.