While a junior at Oklahoma State University, Kelly Allen decided her dating life needed a change. No more loudmouth, full-of-themselves guys. She was going to find a quiet, nice guy. She met Matt at a sorority and fraternity function. "Why he struck me as quiet ... I’ll never know,” she said. "That’s a word never used to describe me,” Matt Allen said. Sometimes, nice is enough. "So, we went out on a date,” he said, "and I never went out on a date with anybody else ever again.” "Me either,” she said. They married June 1, 1991, about two weeks after she graduated. How they envisioned their lives together couldn’t have included what they’re enduring now. Last September, Matt was diagnosed with grade 3 brain cancer. He literally was running up and down a football field a few hours before a throbbing headache began that forced him to the doctor the next morning, and then to the hospital that night. He thought it was a sinus headache, aggravated by all the dust he was stirring up as he tore out the tile in their house. Sinuses didn’t cause the headache. At the hospital, doctors kept asking his wife questions about family history and cancer. "There’s no cancer in Matt’s family,” she said. Too soon, it all made sense. She was told he had a tumor. The scan was wrong, she kept thinking. Maybe it was a shadow. Then she saw the scan, showing a tumor the size of her fist. "It was a bad guy,” Matt said. Surgery required 5½ hours to remove most of the malignant, aggressive tumor that had pushed his brain into the shape of a boomerang. He has since had seven weeks of radiation, and the Allens have experienced an outpouring of love and support from family, friends and community. They also knew they were strong enough to be in control. "The very first oncologist that we met told us he had less than a year to live,” she said. "Basically told us to go home and hug our kids and buy more life insurance. We didn’t like that attitude, so we found another doctor who has helped us come up with a plan, encouraged us to work with M.D. Anderson in Houston, and like everything else in this process, we’ve been able to surround ourselves with positive people who have hope and people who are working towards that,” she said. The Edmond couple wouldn’t accept anything less. "That’s who I am,” he said. "I am that guy. I always see the bright side. I always am half full. ... Even if it’s a half a percent, that’s what I will focus on. ... There are two things you can take to the bank about me: I will always be positive, and if you make it a game, you make it a competition, I play to win.” The couple like to remind their children that you can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to it. "You can choose your attitude,” Kelly said, echoing an often-repeated sentiment of Matt’s. "We certainly can’t pretend we’re perfect, and I can’t tell you that I get up every day and smile through it, because we don’t. I want our kids to know that we have rough days, too, and I have bad days, and we work though that.” As long as someone’s telling them there’s hope, that’s whom they choose to listen to. A positive attitude strengthens them. "The last five months haven’t defined who we are,” Kelly said. "I think the previous 18 years have helped build us for the last five months.” "Sure, I’m going through a little adventure,” Matt said, "but I’m still getting good news.” Kelly is a teacher at Rosary Catholic School in Oklahoma City; Matt sells pharmaceuticals for Glaxo Smith Kline. Their daughter, Taylor, is 15; their son, Chris, is 12. Even before they had children, Matt coached sports. He believes in the life lessons that can be learned. "I am just passionate about children and playing sports, team sports specifically,” he said. He’s athletic director at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Edmond, where his son attends, and an assistant softball coach at Bishop McGuinness, where his daughter goes to school. If he ever doubted that he impressed those children, it was erased soon after his surgery. His son had shaved his head in support of his father’s bald head, a result of the surgery. All the boys Matt had coached since kindergarten shaved their heads, along with some men in his family, and friends. Even the deacon at their church shaved his head. "To look around that school and see all these dads, brothers and friends and students with their bald heads, how can you put that into words? I’ll never be able to truly find words to describe what that was like,” he said. "It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” Their daughter’s friends also showed their support by designing and selling T-shirts and rubber "MATTers” bracelets. "Talk about people of character. You talk about community. ... Kelly and I are supposed to be an inspirational couple; they inspired us,” Matt said. "That’s how we can say this is the best time of our life right now, because we are constantly surrounded by people who care,” Kelly said. Kelly and Matt care, too. They mentor engaged couples at their church. Giving back to the community always has been a part of who they are. "It’s like Christmas,” he said. "There’s just nothing better than giving someone a present they enjoy. That’s the feeling of service, whether you’re mentoring a couple or whether you’re just helping that kid make a free throw he’s never made before. You go home, and you feel so good inside. "People think, ‘Wow, look at Matt and Kelly doing it again.’ But at the same time, it’s really kind of a selfish thing, because we feel so good doing it.” While Matt’s diagnosis has added a layer of stress and uncertainty to their lives, he continues to choose a good attitude, and he encourages others to do the same. "I try not to be the cheesy, Pollyanna guy, but I do try to convey, ‘Hey, you know what? Happy Tuesday. The sun’s out. Let’s have fun today.’ You can choose your attitude, so choose a good one.” Throughout their marriage, they’ve been each other’s cheerleader and soother. They’re nice and respectful to each other. Even when they disagree, they don’t scream. "In almost 19 years of marriage, I don’t think we’ve ever raised our voices at each other,” Matt said. "Not that we haven’t gotten irritated,” Kelly said. He added, "I’m pretty sure I irritate the heck out of her all the time, but she’s never raised her voice at me.” When they mentor couples, one of the topics of discussion is how to discuss and disagree without getting off track, name-calling or screaming or trying to be the winner. "You would be hard to find someone more competitive than me,” he said. "I play to win. However, with your partner, we’re on the same team.” They also stress the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. You may not be able to choose the people you work with, but you can choose your friends, the ones you sit with at ballgames or socialize with. That’s a choice, too. It strengthens your marriage, she said. If you’re around negative people, it pulls you into that negativity. "If you hang out with people who like their spouses ...” Kelly said. "... then suddenly you like yours,” Matt added, finishing her sentence. Not only do the Allens love deeply and share a strong faith, they really like each other. And he’s just as nice as he was when she met him.