Matt Tifft‘s comeback a couple years ago when he returned from brain surgery to the race car in less than three months provided proof of his determination and perseverance.
Tifft will try to use those same skills this week in another arena — the United States Congress.
For the second consecutive year, the 21-year-old Xfinity Series driver is in Washington as part of a National Brain Tumor Society program where survivors spend a day lobbying legislators. He was scheduled to meet Tuesday with U.S. senators from North Carolina.
Tifft will advocate for passage of the Childhood Cancer Star Act, which is designed to improve biospecimen collection in childhood cancer, improve data collection and tracking of childhood cancer incidences, and stimulate the development of childhood cancer survivorship models to help improve choices for treatment and tailor treatment programs specifically for children.
“I was initially given a treatment plan that would have involved chemo and radiation,” said Tifft, who was 19 when he was diagnosed with what was considered a pediatric tumor. “I reached out to two other doctors that did not think for my tumor it was necessary. I am in a different position because, as a NASCAR driver, I had leverage to ask other people.
“As a family, if you’re in that spot, you’re probably just going to listen to the first thing you’re told because you trust your doctor.”
Having a step-grandmother die from brain cancer, Tifft said he saw the impact of treatment. He said the community of brain cancer survivors was supportive and inspirational through his surgery and recovery.
“I got through this and I felt I need to be that voice for people. … I didn’t have to go through a treatment, so I kind of got lucky with everything I went through compared to what most people have to deal with,” Tifft said.
“So I’m advocating for those people who can’t sit down in Congress because they’re too sick or they can’t make the trips out to these places because the medical bills are so expensive.”
With Senator John McCain battling brain cancer and former vice president Joe Biden’s son dying from brain cancer in 2015, Tifft said there is an awareness among politicians.
“Essentially, it’s a bipartisan bill that pushes for increases in spending for drug development for clinical trials,” Tifft said. “Right now, there are only four drugs available for 140 different kinds of brain tumors.”
Doctors found a tumor in Tifft’s brain when he went in for an MRI on his back. He told doctors he had a sensitivity to light and they did a brain scan as well. He had surgery to remove the tumor and has not had a recurrence. He ran the full season for Joe Gibbs Racing last year and finished seventh in the Xfinity Series standings. He’s currently 10th in the standings through 10 races driving for Richard Childress Racing.
Tifft said his tumor could return over 15 years. He gets checked every three months.
“It looks like every scan has improved,” Tifft said. “Any kind of tissue that was there, inflammation keeps going down.”