Great Falls airman beats leukemia, makes the cut on ‘Titan Games’

(The Electric) Four years ago, Matt Cable was fighting leukemia, complete organ failure and was deathly ill.

Now he’s competing in the Titan Games, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new fitness competition that premiers Jan. 3 on NBC. Shortly after the show premiers, he leaves for a 7-month deployment with the 120th Security Forces Group.

The 28-year-old played a number of sports growing up and has always focused on fitness. In 2011, he joined the Montana National Guard and has been serving in a variety of security forces jobs since including active duty assignments at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

In 2014, he got sick and was in and out of the hospital four times. It was on the fourth visit that doctors finally caught the acute myeloid leukemia, Cable said.

A blodd test showed his white blood cell count was almost 60,000, or five times higher than normal.

His mom was to his right and his brother to his left when he was diagnosed. They were breaking down and “I told myself I gotta beat it. That’s what I did,” he said.

“I told myself I gotta beat it. That’s what I did,” said Great Falls airman and “The Titans” contestant Matt Cable. (Courtesy photo)

When the doctors told him about the diagnosis and treatment options, they asked if he had any plans in the next six months.

Cable was scheduled to deploy about two months later, but that couldn’t happen.

Cable loved fitness and working out and said doctors thought he was crazy when he asked to be released so he could go to the gym.

Trying to clear his head while working out, he was doing squats with about 400 pounds of weights, which he said wasn’t that heavy for him.

His back gave out.

“That’s when I realized my body was giving out on me,” he said.

Treatment started shortly thereafter with a 24-hour drip of chemotherapy.

“It was hard core” and wiped out his immune system.

That became a problem when he developed an infection. The port in his chest delivering antibiotics and other medications was the likely culprit, he said.

“Out of nowhere I had complete organ failure. I went to the ICU in a coma and was on life support,” he said. “There was nothing they could do for me.”

But somehow, Cable said, his body fought back and a few days later, he woke up.

“That’s when the battle really started,” he said.

He spent about a day on a bed of ice to fend off a body temperature of 104 degrees.

His heart had failed so his heartbeat would sky-rocket easily, but “each day, I’d get a little stronger.”

Re-learning to walk might take a few weeks, doctors said, so Cable looked at them and said, “watch this.”

With the help of some buddies, he started walking the first day and then progressed to laps around his floor at the hospital.

He’d lost about 60 pounds in 18 days and the gym was still his first stop after being released from the hospital.

Trying to bench press 45 pound weights was difficult, at just a tiny fraction of the weights he’d been lifting before the cancer racked his body, and walking was still challenging since his balance wasn’t yet back to normal.

But he kept working and spent four to six hours in the gym daily.

After three or four months, he was almost back to his pre-cancer fitness level.

He’d eaten to get his weight back up, but it wasn’t particularly healthy, so he cut about 10 pounds of fat and bulked back up the healthy way, he said, and “started getting my life back in order.”

He returned to work at the Guard and got a call from a football coach wanting him to play, which had been a goal of his, Cable said.

He played one game but afterward his body was so battered that he retired from football and focused on the gym and fitness in other ways.

Then a call came inviting him to compete for the Air Force in the 2017 Warrior Games where he won two gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals.

He continued his training and started competing in CrossFit with a team at Big Sky CrossFit.

This year, he got the invite to compete for a spot in the Titan Games. He went to the combine to compete in multiple events so the organizers could see the athletes abilities.

Cable competed in the 40-yard dash, high jump, long jump, dead lift, obstacle courses and more.

He pulled 625 pounds on a dead lift and 500 pounds for 12 repetitions.

To the uninitiated, “that’s pretty good,” he said.

He ranked among the top 32 males and got the invite to compete in the Titan Games competition and went to Los Angeles to compete and film for three weeks.

Cable can’t say much about the actual competition or which episodes he’ll appear in but “the experience was definitely once in a lifetime.”

According to NBC, the 10-episode series offers “everyday people the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in epic head-to-head challenges designed to test the mind, body and heart. Inspired by Johnson’s desire to motivate global audiences to reach their potential for greatness, this unparalleled new athletic competition gives men and women across the country the opportunity to step inside the Titan arena and achieve the impossible.

‘The Titan Games’ will not only test the competitors’ physical strength but also their mental and emotional fortitude. Throughout this uplifting series, hard work and determination will be rewarded, and a new breed of heroes will emerge. Those who can withstand the challenge have the chance to become a Titan and win a grand prize of $100,000.”

Cable said the competitors had a wide range of experience and backgrounds, but it was “humbling and exciting,” to be in a room full of the top athletes in the world.

Cable was born in San Diego and lived in Hawaii for a bit before coming to live in Great Falls. He attended middle school here and graduated from Great Falls High. He also attended what is now the University of Providence, where he studied criminal justice, and enlisted in the Montana Air National Guard in 2011.

Community support helped while he was fighting cancer, Cable said.

“It wasn’t just me I was fighting for. I was fighting for other people’s inspiration,” he said. “I wanted to give people inspiration and hope.”

While Cable was in the hospital, there were shirts, bracelets, fundraisers and social media campaigns using #cablestrong. While he was in town for a concert at Malmstrom, Gary Sinise visited Cable in the hospital.

His message now, in remission and feeling strong, “chase your goals and make yourself extremely happy. Never give up. You never know when you’re opportunities will come.”

Cable continues to promote fitness since “that’s why I survived, because of how fit I was.”

Other than the difficulty of fighting cancer, sitting still and not being in the gym was hard for him. He had a buddy sneak in weights from a local gym and tried to work out while he was in chemotherapy.

“That almost killed me. I got so sick,” he said. “I should not have done that.”

The nurses weren’t too thrilled either, he said.

Physical fitness likely played a major role in his survival, but Cable said mental toughness was significant.

“I never once thought I was going to die,” he said. “I never gave up on myself. I never thought about dying, that never crossed my mind.”