Posted on Thursday 27 September 2018
“CLIC Sargent made me see that cancer wasn’t the end of my life, it was a change of life”
A young man who was diagnosed with two brain tumours while at college has spoken of his journey to rebuild his life.
Matthew White, 19 from Greenhill, Sheffield 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 aged 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 cancer is 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.
Morrisons is partnered with CLIC Sargent until 2020. For more information on CLIC Sargent’s partnership with Morrisons, visit clicsargent.org.uk/Morrisons
Matthew’s Utterly Butterly Lemon Shortbreads
225g Utterly Butterly
100g caster sugar plus extra to finish
200g plain flour
120g ground almonds
finely grated zest of 3 large unwaxed lemons
- Preheat the oven to 140C fan/160C/gas 2 1/2. Prepare 2 non-stick baking trays.
- Place all the ingredients for the shortbread in the bowl of a food processor and mix to a dough. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill overnight.
- Place the extra caster sugar in a shallow dish.
- Break off pieces of the dough and roll into balls the size of a walnut – about 30 in total. Roll the dough balls in the extra sugar to coat and then place on the baking trays, spacing slightly apart. You may need to bake these in batches. Bake for around 40 minutes then leave to cool.
- Store in an airtight container.
CLIC Sargent has paid tribute to its founder, Bristolian Bob Woodward, who died on 20 January 2019, aged 85.
Artwork from young artists across the UK, who have all experienced cancer, is to be showcased at three special events, hosted by CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, to mark World Cancer Day.