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“Cancer isn’t the end to life, it’s a change of life”

Matt Smith
Matt Smith

A Sheffield man who was diagnosed with two brain tumours while at college has spoken of his journey to rebuild his life.

Matthew White, aged 19, from Greenhill, was left nearly blind by the pressure of the tumours on his brain. The teen - who loved baking and playing computer games before his diagnosis at the age of 17 - underwent five weeks of radiotherapy to shrink the masses.

“The treatment left me feeling exhausted” said Matthew.

“I remember one of the nurses on the teenage unit said she needed to change my bed, and I felt so tired that just getting out of bed exhausted me for the day.”

After treatment finished, Matthew spent almost six months at home. He was so exhausted he was unable to return to college and he fell into depression.

“When you are in the hospital having radiotherapy you are in a routine” said Matthew.

“Then you get home and there’s nothing like that. After a while I got quite low being in a daily cycle of being exhausted and just lying there. I was really depressed. I had one friend who would come and see me but apart from that it was just me and my mum at home, not being able to do anything. The social isolation is really hard.

“That day I left college is the last day I saw most of my friends. It was especially hard at Christmas when most of my friends had gone off the radar and didn’t have anything to do with me. When you have cancer you know you are going to be ill, but you don’t think your whole social life is going to crumble around you.”

But Matthew was invited to a Christmas party thrown by CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity supporting children and young people with cancer.There he met other young people with cancer, and started to form friendships that eased his feelings of isolation. Fran, his CLIC Sargent social worker, also helped the family apply for grants to help them cope with the extra costs a diagnosis brings, as well as supporting Matthew’s transition back to education. Her support was so vital to the family, that Matthew’s mum Susan described meeting her as ‘the best thing that happened to us’.

Matthew added: “It has just been good to have Fran there. The first time she came to the house I was so pleased to be interacting with a normal person, not a medic. She gave me the realisation that it’s not the end of life; it is a change of life. She showed me that it is possible to get back to where you were.”

Matthew has now returned to college to prepare for University, where he wants to study robotics. He has even started baking again, and has shared his recipe for Lemon Shortbread. The biscuits were made with Utterly Butterly, which is currently on sale in Morrisons stores across the UK with a donation of 5p per pack to CLIC Sargent.

Matthew’s Utterly Butterly Lemon Shortbreads

Ingredients:

225g Utterly Butterly

100g caster sugar plus extra to finish

200g plain flour

120g ground almonds

finely grated zest of 3 large unwaxed lemons

Method: