Ratzloff Strong

Owatonna alumni takes on serious form of cancer


photo submitted

Matt Ratzloff at the Four Seasons Centre ice arena

Matt Ratzloff was a typical Owatonna Senior High School student in the Class of 2013. While at OHS, he was an incredible leader who loved to hang out with his friends and always worked hard. His real passion, however, was found on the ice while he played for the OHS varsity hockey team. After graduating from Winona state, he set his sights on becoming a police officer. However early this year, his life changed forever.

Unfortunately, Ratzloff fell ill and went in to the hospital on Jan. 12, 2017, where he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. Despite getting plenty of fluids and rest, the symptoms were relentless. Almost two weeks later, on Jan. 25, 2017, Ratzloff went back into the hospital feeling weak with a temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit. He spent a night in the Intensive Care Unit after being diagnosed with severe pneumonia. The next day he was transferred to Methodist hospital in Rochester because a pathologist believed he may have a form of Leukemia. This particular form is called Acute Myeloid Leukemia, it is found in the blood and bone marrow, and it rapidly escalates to interfering with the production of healthy cells.

A peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line, was put in his arm for a blood transfusion over the first couple days, but after his arm started swelling, they removed the line and discovered a blood clot in his arm. On Feb. 1, 2017, doctors successfully inserted a Hickman catheter into his chest, which will be used for his chemotherapy. The chemotherapy schedule is a grueling one, scheduled to go 24/7 for a week. An uncommon practice according the doctors, but because of his good physical condition, they are confident he will be able to handle it. Ratzloff has been far from being alone in this unfortunate situation he is in. He has found much support within the community, his family and his faith. His aunt, Melissa Paquette, said, “I can tell you this, he is an incredibly strong man and is determined to fight this every step of the way.  The outpouring of love and support from the Owatonna community, Owatonna Boys Hockey, Winona State classmates, Bloomington PD and honestly some people that none of us even know has been humbling to all of us. The fact that so many people care about Matt, his family, this horrible disease… it’s just amazing to all of us.”

The fact that so many people care about Matt, his family, this horrible disease… it’s just amazing to all of us.

Aside from just family, Ratzloff has touched the lives of many people in the community as well. His former hockey coach, boys Varsity Head Coach, Josh Storm said, “Matt was a big part of the culture that we have worked to create for six years. Guys who are hockey players, not just people who play hockey. He was a tremendous leader, and an even better person. He is just one of those people who, as a coach, sticks with you for a long time.”

As Ratzloff’s chemotherapy has progressed, he has remained strong and positive minded, for he knows he can beat this. There were good days for him, as well as some not-so-good days, where his sickness reared its ugly head. The doctors determined that he has an intermediate form of cancer, which as the family looked at it, “It could have been much worse.”

The hockey community has been pulling together for Ratzloff. At every home game, the OHS Boys Hockey team does a 50/50 raffle where half of the pot stays with the Association and half goes to the winner. The team has decided to give all of its proceeds from the raffle to Matt until the close of the season. So far, every winner has refused to claim their prize and the full pot of each game has been given to support Ratzloff and his family. There is one home game left to collect money for Matt, and it is on Saturday, Feb. 18. at 3 p.m. vs. Winona Winhawks.

On Feb. 8, 2017, Ratzloff said, “My treatment is going pretty good so far. I’m on my last day of chemo right now and I could not be more happy. I was taught through my sports and my coaches that no matter what, never give up on what you’re trying to accomplish. Coach Storm would always say that you’ll be faced with adversity at times, but persevering through the adversity really shows your character and the type of person you are.” He says that this saying from Coach Storm has played a major role in the way he is taking on his Leukemia.

I was taught through my sports and my coaches that no matter what, never give up on what you’re trying to accomplish.


On Feb. 14, 2017, Matt received a bone marrow biopsy to determine how well the chemotherapy had done its job. The surgery seemed to have wiped him of his energy because he spent the remainder of the day in bed resting. The next day the results came in and, unfortunately, still showed small amounts of Leukemia remaining. After deliberating the proper course of action, doctors decided another 24/7 schedule would be the best choice. Go Fund Me organizer and close friend of Matt, Taylor Reese, said on her facebook update, “Matt will be staying at Rochester through the next round of treatment. Thanks again for the support from everyone through this tough journey. Matt is so strong and he’s going to win this!” 

Ratzloff has inspired many people already with how bravely he has taken on his cancer. The thoughts of OHS students and staff are with Ratzloff as he continues to battle the disease. Daily updates are being posted on his CaringBridge website, and donations can be made to his GoFundMe page. He has also been named as a From the Heart race recipient. For information about Matt, visit the sites found below.

Matt’s  CaringBridge

Matt’s GoFundMePage

From the Heart Race