Matt Schlag, a trainee teacher and father of two, says his boss saved his life - after calling out his poor timekeeping and ‘strange’ behaviour.
In October 2019, the 43-year-old was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumour.
Schlag says he first knew something was wrong when he was studying to become a primary school teacher and kept developing migraines.
“I kept on getting really awful migraines every other day,” he explains.
''They were really intense, and I was also getting lost in conversations and forgetting my words, it was really weird.”
Schlag’s boss urged him to look into his 'strange' behaviour.
“My boss said ‘you need to get this properly checked out because you’re behaving strangely’" Schlag recalled. "My timekeeping had become so poor and I was getting lost not only in conversations but around the school building itself.”
“I was away with the fairies and I wasn’t my usual eloquent self. I was awkward in conversation and I wasn’t really engaging with people like I usually would.”
The trainee teacher visited A&E at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) where he ‘insisted’ he have a scan.
And to his surprise, the scan revealed a tumour on his brain.
“Three days later, which happened to be my daughter’s second birthday, I underwent surgery,” Schlag shared. ''The operation went well, and I was so elated that when I woke up, I was singing ‘Aqua Azzura’ in Italian,” he laughs.
''I don’t know if it was the drugs I was on, but I just felt so happy because I’m fluent in Italian, and this meant that I hadn’t lost my language skills completely,” Schlag explained.
Doctors ordered that Schlag undergo three months of radiotherapy and 12 months of chemotherapy.
But in August 2020, a check-up scan showed his tumour had grown again.
“I thought ‘not this again’ thinking that I had beaten this and that we could draw a line under it.”
He underwent a second operation on 13th September 2020, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
Schlag credits his boss for saving his life.
“My boss was instrumental in helping me deal with the situation and getting me sorted out as I wasn’t capable at the time. His intervention saved my life.”
And now, he’s doing all he can to raise awareness of the disease.
On 11 September, Schlag and his friends are taking on the 55-mile London to Brighton Cycle Ride to raise money for the charity Brain Tumour Research.
“I just wanted to make something positive out of what’s happened. It’s so important to raise money to help find a cure because, until a cure is found, there’s always the worry that the tumour can come back again,” he said.
Matthew Price, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research shared his appreciation, “we’re really grateful to Matt and his two friends for taking on this challenge, as it’s only with the support of people like them that we’re able to progress our research into brain tumours and improve the outcome for patients like Matt who are forced to fight this awful disease.”
“Brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time,” Price said. “Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK and campaigns for the government and larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.
The charity is the driving force behind the call for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia, and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
To donate to Matt’s fundraising page, visit: www.facebook.com/donate/1392105604630323/
Watch: Haller dealing with tumour 'positively'