My Name is Matt, I am 20 years old and on the 25th July 2013, aged 19, I was diagnosed with cancer.
My life before cancer was pretty relaxed. I live in a tiny town called Wadebridge, in North Cornwall, where not much goes on, but everyone still knows your business. Everything is pretty simple down there, including a lot of the people.
I have an older brother called Dominic and separated parents Marie and Nick but I am extremely close with the both of them, and have a pretty large network of supporting family living close.
My main hobby has always been biking, mainly BMX. As soon as I was able to work, I landed myself a pretty sweet job in the local bike shop. This fueled my hobby into more of an obsession and from there it has turned into an insane amount road trips, a trip to the United States, countless cuts and bruises, a broken ankle and a broken bike.
My diagnosis came as a massive shock to me as it has for all the teens here, but in the way of symptoms beforehand, I hardly had any. I had a few little bruises on my foot, which I put down to riding my bike and I was getting tired and sleeping a lot which I thought was from working two jobs and cycling loads. But that was not the case, after the bruises didn’t fade away, I got them checked by the GP where they decided to do a blood test, this is what found the irregularity in my blood. Same evening, I was told I needed to be seen in hospital, that is where a staff nurse accidently asked if I had already been diagnosed with leukemia. So this came as a massive shock and I didn’t know what to say or what it was, but saw my mum get upset, so I knew things were going to get serious. After being officially diagnosed the next day, I was allowed to go home.
I then moved to Bristol to start 8 months of intense chemotherapy a few times a week, which finished in March and now I’m on a 2 and ½ year course of maintenance chemotherapy once a month with tablets.
My first experience with Teens Unite was back in the summer at their Activity Holiday. This trip was so important to me. Not only was I able to meet a whole new bunch of inspirational teens, I was able to prove to myself that I was capable of much more than I expected. It completely changed my outlook from, “oh I’m still not ready to do activities like that” to going on zip lines through a forest. And then after all the crazy activities we were all able to sit down, have a laugh and enjoy a break away from everyday worries. It was amazing to be a part of such a positive and caring environment.
Living in Cornwall means that unfortunately I can’t fully benefit from the support Teens Unite provides day in, day out. They hold some amazing workshops, but it is too far for me to travel just for one day. That’s why our week stay was so incredible and why building a specialist respite home, where teens can stay, is so vital for this charity. The Teens Unite activity stay meant that teens from all across the UK, not just around London, could experience the support of Teens Unite, have fun and meet others in the same situation.
Teens Unite is the best charity I have been involved with and their outlook is totally different to everyone else’s- they are all about bringing teens together to enjoy themselves.