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Suddenly Sick: West Milford Teen's College Essay Will Give You Goosebumps

Matthew Rizza, center, of West Milford, is battling health problems.
Matthew Rizza, center, of West Milford, is battling health problems. Photo Credit: GoFundMe

Matt Rizza of West Milford spent what should have been his first year of college in isolation.

Last summer, the 19-year-old became extremely ill almost overnight.

He experienced difficulty breathing, horrible reflux, heartburn, brain fog and extreme food sensitivities.

A series of tests revealed a slew of illnesses including gastroparesis, Hashimotos, a Lyme Disease infection and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome caused from Biotoxin Illness.

More simply put, Matt's body is unable to detox propersly because of his genetic makeup, compromising his immune system and making him "allergic" to the world.

Matt is allergic to heavy metals, molds and parasites -- which are hard to treat due to the leaky gut they have caused.

Almost anything he ingests sets off an instant inflammatory response throughout his body affecting him physically and cognitively. For a while, Matt was  unable to shower because of chemicals in the water.

He recently moved to his grandfather's home due to the fact that there is no basement or high humidity there.

Matt has been receiving treatments but his body develops a resistance to things very quickly, so he isn't able to feel the benefits.

He and his mother shared his story on a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $22,000.

On it, he shared his college essay that he wrote in hopes of attending school:

Food: amidst darkness, it is light. Amidst triviality, it is significance. Amidst a harrowing world, it is an airy delight, riddled with flavor - not to mention, comfort. Altogether, food is a wondrous thing. The beauty of food lies within its implied plurality. Despite singularity in structure and usage, the word “food” always manages to assume a state of diversity and tangibility. Never is it limited to a certain shape or size. Never is it restricted to the confining labels of sour or sweet. No - food knows no boundaries. In a cosmic sort of way, it is infinite. To the average person, all of this stands true. I am one of the exceptions.

Last December, on Christmas day, I sat motionless in my dining room chair. My mind was sludge and my breaths were labored. With droopy eyes, I looked at my dinner plate. It held my gaze. A vast, swirling wonderland of creaminess, the parmesan cheese danced atop a blanket of marinara and penne. Deceived by hunger, I reached for another bite of poison. My parents looked on in fear, trading worried whispers while they contacted our doctor. It was clear that something was very wrong with me.

Everything can change in a day.

Ever since that day, I have been diagnosed with Babesia (a lyme co-infection), which has led to leaky gut, gastritis, and severe food sensitivities. On the surface, nothing has changed. I would like to say that I’m healed, but I am not. I would like to say that I can eat whatever I want, but I cannot. What I can say is this: after pouring every ounce of hope into faith, and every ounce of faith into hope, I needed closure.

Everything can change in a day.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me a simple question, one that I have been avoiding for quite some time. The question was, “What if you don’t get better?”. Cringing at the thought, I blindly denounced the possibility. Then, I took a step back and reconsidered my life anew. For the better part of a year, I let my illness dominate every single situation. It was then that I realized the true meaning of this inquiry. It wasn’t a cynical interpretation of the future; it was a call to self-evaluation. Looking back, I watched as a lighthearted, carefree boy by the nickname of “Smiley” transformed into a depressed, defeated being. Besides becoming well-versed in the films of Quentin Tarantino, I had not progressed as a human. I was no longer curious to learn, no longer willing to explore the world. I was consumed by sickness. It will consume me no more.

The very thought of eking out a bleak existence, coupled with the fact that I was wasting my youth, lit a fire in me. It marked the dawn of a new era - a metamorphosis of mentality. Seclusion was no longer acceptable, for I had potential to prove, and people to help. With a new set of eyes and an infectious smile, I can confidently say that I am free from the shackles of suffering. Now, I live for the present, not for what lies ahead. I have also learned to live for both myself, and for others, too. That is why I have made it my life’s mission to utilize the knowledge I have gained along my journey in order to heal others and their afflictions, as well as mine.

As I write this essay, I am content in mind, yet relentless in spirit. I will not give up until I, and all of those I come into contact with, are healed. If I had any advice to give, it would be this: never underestimate the value of appreciation, because in a day, everything can change

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