Surrounded by his wife and family, Andrew Albritton Matney, 39, of Bozeman, peacefully passed away after a brave six-year battle with stage IV colon cancer on Sunday morning, July 28, 2019.
He was born September 13, 1979, in Bozeman to Claud and Jan (Albritton) Matney. Growing up, his family nicknamed him “Cruiser” because of how he cruised around the house, always on the move. He graduated from Bozeman High School in 1999. While earning his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Montana State University, Andrew took advantage of opportunities to study abroad in Italy, Hawaii, and Australia. His love of learning and travel brought him to the University of Bath in England, where he earned a Master’s degree in Business. Andrew then returned stateside, living in Denver and the “magical desert” of sunny Phoenix before coming home to Bozeman, where he worked for both his father's engineering firm and his parents’ counseling clinic.
In 2014, Andrew met the love of his life, Alexis Brill. Andrew’s cancer was in remission at the time, and they used these precious months to take road trips and create memories. These adventures to explore nature and new cities became the foundation of their relationship: spending quality time, talking for hours and sharing dreams and fears, whether they were carrying out their annual traditions of camping in Yellowstone or birthdays in Livingston, driving on a road trip, or at home playing Dominoes. When cancer returned, Alexis was always by his side during chemotherapy, surgeries, and doctor appointments. They were “Team A and A.”
On October 5, 2017, Andrew married Alexis in Tulum, Mexico, surrounded by their loving families, and honeymooned in Montreal and Quebec City.
Andrew took a holistic approach in his mission to fight cancer. His steel-trap memory combined with his research skills left no stone unturned. His natural adventurous spirit meant he was open to try anything, visiting every wellness clinic in town, all the while perfecting his legendary green vegetable juice. Alexis and Andrew refocused the destinations of their special road trips to clinical trials across the country, searching for one that held hope. In 2015, their pursuit of an experimental clinical trial in New York City’s Mt. Sinai Hospital made news in Billings, with Andrew saying: “I want to live and I want to give hope to others that there may be a cure in our lifetime. By making myself available for advanced clinical trials, I aim to save my life and help others through critical research. In the best-case scenario, I could be patient zero for the cure to cancer.”
For the most part of six years, Andrew endured three-day rounds of chemotherapy every other weekend. Despite that, it wasn’t uncommon for Andrew to get outdoors with Alexis and their two dogs, Bear and Mollie, who always provided comfort. “I’m just grateful to be alive,” he’d say with a smile.
When he was diagnosed, he was given six weeks to live. He made it six years with stage IV cancer -- an extreme rarity. He defied many odds and always held out for hope.
In 2018, the former skiier, multiple marathon runner, golfer, and weightlifter found himself more physically limited as cancer spread to his lungs. Andrew and Alexis scaled back their hobbies: hiking their favorite trails became leisurely walks in the bookstore, watching movies at home instead of the starry sky in Glacier, but it didn’t matter as long as they could continue their tradition of connecting with one another. Drives across the country became drives around the neighborhood, especially with Claud, Andrew’s father. Andrew loved feeling the sun on his face and breathing fresh air.
Despite an 8% chance of successful conception, their daughter, Melanie Louise Matney, was born on January 7, 2019. Andrew picked out her middle name, Louise, which means “warrior and fighter.” After the fact, the couple was shocked to discover “Andrew” has the same meaning. It was the deepest desire of Andrew’s heart to survive and provide not only a great life for Melanie but to be an essential part of it. The first few months of Melanie’s life, before Andrew’s health rapidly declined, Andrew would wake in the night to change and feed Melanie, playing music for her and rocking her back to sleep. Until it became too difficult, he insisted on wheeling his oxygen tank into her nursery to take care of her, even as he struggled to breathe. Nothing brought him more joy. His greatest dream was to take Melanie to Disneyland, describing its magic to her as he held her tight. Andrew’s wild, excited spirit lives on in Melanie. Even at six months old, she already has his strength, infectious smile, and zest for life.
He had a strong appetite for experiencing life to the fullest. He always knew how to make people smile and giggle and he maintained his quirky style and sense of humor until the end. Andrew became Alexis’s greatest teacher in reminding her to practice gratitude and to slow down and enjoy the present moment. Although their time together was short, it held the deepest love that either had experienced.
Alexis sincerely thanks the Bozeman Health Cancer Center nurses, doctors, and social workers for all their years of taking great care of Andrew and supporting Alexis, and Hospice of Bozeman Health for their compassion and loving care at the end. Many hands worked on Andrew over the years and every single one made a difference.
Andrew is preceded in death by his maternal grandparents, Henry and Dorothy Albritton; and paternal grandparents, William and Maurine Matney.
Andrew is survived by his wife, Alexis Brill; daughter, Melanie Matney; parents, Jan and Claud Matney of Bozeman; sisters, Kate Lloyd (Matt) of Denver, and Ann Matney Baggett (Neal) of Bozeman; nephews, Jackson Baggett and Bradon Allen; niece, Penelope Lloyd; parents-in-law, Steve Brill, Lori and Jamie Kemp of Billings; and sisters-in-law, Lindsey Brill of Billings, McKenzie Brill of San Francisco, and Whitney Randall (Dave) of New Orleans.
A Celebration of Andrew's life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, August 2 at Pilgrim Congregational Church. Interment will follow at Sunset Hills Cemetery, with a reception at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memoriam to Melanie Matney Memorial Fund, c/o First Security Bank, 511 W Main St, Belgrade, MT 59714.
Until we meet again, Andrew.
“I love you.”
“I love you more.”
“That’s not possible.”
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service.