(Editor's note: This story was originally published by Tom Wylie on Jan. 1, 2019. Cable announced his cancer returned in April, and he received a bone marrow transplant in September. According to his Facebook page, Cable undergoes one or two transfusions a week. Viewers can follow Cable's updates on his social media accounts.)
GREAT FALLS -- Not much can rattle Matt Cable these days.
A deadlift of 600 pounds? Easy.
A life-threatening disease? No sweat.
But when the Great Falls native and Montana Air National Guardsman had a chance to meet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson earlier this year, well, nerves got the best of him.
“I looked up to The Rock my whole life. Watching him wrestle in WWE, and just watching how he changes a room when he walks in, it was insane,” Cable said. “So when he came up to me and gave me a hug and called me brother, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m shaking.’ I forgot what I was talking about.”
Cable is one of 64 athletes who will compete on Johnson’s new show, “The Titan Games,” which premieres on NBC Thursday, Jan 3rd.
According to the NBC website, the show will feature people from across the United States competing in an arena against one of six reigning “Titans” in a series of endurance-based mental and physical challenges of “epic proportions.” If successful, the competitor will become a member of the group of Titans, who will have to defend their title every week against new competitors in order to remain in the group. The season finale will feature the remaining Titans challenging one another to determine the last male and female standing.
The former Great Falls High football player and wrestler was selected from a nationwide pool after sending in an audition video and competing at a combine. The show wrapped filming in Los Angeles over the summer and the 28-year-old called the experience life-changing.
“The combine was a great experience, and then I had a few weeks to really train for the Games,” Cable said. “So I turned it up a notch, tried to stay injury free, obviously. Then we flew back to LA and we had a few shoots going on and got ready for the actual competition. I can’t even explain how awesome it was.”
It was Cable’s story that resonated with The Rock and the show’s producers.
And what a story it is.
In late 2014, Cable was in peak physical condition, but something in his body didn’t feel right. He remembers the day vividly.
“I was actually at a fantasy football draft at my buddy’s house,” Cable recalled. “Halfway through, I got super sick: flu-like symptoms. I called my mom and was like, ‘Hey, Mom, do you want to go to the hospital with me? I’m not feeling very good.’”
At the hospital, doctors were alarmed by his blood-level readings. A series of tests followed before Cable and his family heard the news no one wants to hear.
The fit 24-year-old was diagnosed with AML Leukemia: cancer in his bones.
“I got my mom on the right side of me, my brother turns pale white on the left side of me,” Cable said. “My mom starts crying and I said, ‘I guess I got to beat it.’ I was trying to be strong for them, because I didn’t think anything of it, I never thought once that I was going to die.”
Things got worse before they got better. Chemotherapy took a toll on his body, which led to 18 days in the ICU.
Which led to complete organ failure.
Which led to a medically induced coma he wasn’t expected to wake up from.
But miracles happen, and Cable is proof.
Five days later, he opened his eyes.
“I wasn’t supposed to make it, but then I make it. No one really could believe that I actually survived that,” he said. “I remember telling my mom not to worry, I’m not going anywhere. And I stuck to my word. Even though there were times that she thought I wasn’t going to. I woke up and said, ‘Told you, Mom.’”
Cable went through weeks of therapy and treatments. He had to re-learn how to eat and how to walk.
And when he was finally discharged, you can probably guess his first stop after leaving the hospital.
“I went to the gym,” Cable laughed.
But the cancer had stolen the strength that Cable had worked his whole life to possess. Those first few days back were difficult.
“I remember I went to bench press, just the bar, and two reps buried me,” he said. “This is crazy. So I had a look in the mirror and told myself, ‘This ain’t going to be you for very much longer, you just keep grinding.'”
That was three years ago. Cable struggled to bench press 45 pounds.
Now he’s putting up more than 400.
And that was just a start. Cable worked himself back into training shape. In the summer of 2017, he competed in the Warrior Games, a multi-sport event for wounded, injured or ill service personnel and veterans organized by the United States Department of Defense.
Now Cable spends most of his free time working out at Big Sky CrossFit in Great Falls, where he is chasing a spot in the CrossFit World Games.
At every turn he hopes to inspire others to never give up.
“My next chapter in my life was getting better and chasing my goals and dreams that I had in my life,” Cable said. “After you almost died once, your ‘second life,’ if you want to call it that, you don’t want to waste it. I’ve definitely changed in that mindset.”
Cable has a simple message for people facing obstacles in their lives.
“Never give up,” he said. “Every morning you wake up, just show out. Get up and go grind, whatever that is — it doesn’t have to be fitness. Go and do your thing, do what makes you happy. Continue to fight and battle each day.”
Cable is done filming his part of the Titan Games. He can’t discuss the results until the show airs, but he does know that the show is not the last time you’ll hear his name.
“I got a lot of stuff I got to do before I die. I got a lot of goals,” he said. “You’re only this age once, you’re only this young once. I chase goals and dreams every day. And the Titan Games were just another goal that I had, and I got it, but I got a lot more. I’m not even close to done chasing my dreams.”
Cable has a story to share. And in the Titan Games, he found the biggest stage and the biggest star possible to help it spread in the hope that it helps others.
“It’s been a big motivator for myself to continue to do what I do, because I see what it does to other people,” he said.