Matt on being diagnosed with thyroid cancer

Published: 24 April 2023
Matt was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in July 2021. Here he shares how his life has changed since his diagnosis and what has helped him.

Meet Matt

Overnight my resting heart rate doubled, I became really fatigued, I was always sweating and feeling hot.

With all these symptoms, I thought what is going on? I went to the GP and at first, they fobbed me off because I was running 80 to 100 miles a week. They thought that was why I was tired.

I dropped my mileage to 40 to 60 miles a week which was nothing to me then, I was that fit. I was still feeling awful, and the GP was still saying to drop the running miles. It took 7 visits to the GP in all before I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had blood tests which came back fine. Then I found a little lump in my neck.

They told me it was most likely a cyst and nothing to worry about, but thought they should scan me. It was a lump in my neck, and looking back it was quite noticeable really, I am amazed I didn’t find it sooner. This is one of the reasons I want to share my story, I’ve seen lots of publicity around checking breasts or testicles for lumps, but I have never seen anything about checking your neck.

I have had 7 people tell me they have found a lump in their neck due to hearing about my experience. If I can help one person out there, then it’s worth it. Awareness is the no.1 for me, it is rare in young people, but it can happen.

“The ultrasound scan took a long time, I knew then it wasn’t good news.”

The scan took over 45 minutes and I thought why are they taking so long to scan such a small area? I will never forget how I was told the news. The nurse or technician who was doing the scan said, “Have you got anyone with you?”, I thought bloody hell, what are you about to say? She said, “It’s not good, it is not a cyst, it is cancer. You’re pickled, there are 7 tumours in your neck.”

I will remember it forever. I was still fit, compared to the average person. I said, “What are you on about?” I didn’t believe it. I left the scan thinking that I am going to die. It was quite humbling, I was 28 and I thought, this is it. There is so much I want to do or wish I had done sooner.

When I saw the consultant, he told me he had been working in cancer for 20 years and I was the third worst case he had seen. But he said you aren’t going to die. It was such a relief.

“I had 8 tumours removed, ranging from the size a Brussel sprout to a golf ball.”

The surgery to remove my tumours was extensive affecting my neck and jaw. The operation was in August 2021, I was diagnosed on 16 July 2021.

At first, I didn’t have any support, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sleeping, I was knackered, I was feeling horrific, The GP told me about Mustard Tree Macmillan Support Centre and they offered me counselling, massage and I did the iHOPE online course. Each week there was a different topic.

The other people dropped in and out but there was one other person, Sharon, who was in her 60s who I met up with every week following the course. She had ovarian cancer but was very positive, very blunt, she was very open with me. She was amazing, she was my therapy. She has now passed away very sadly.


“My recovery took a while and I was told I probably wouldn’t run for 6 months.”

I couldn't imagine not running, everyone knows me as a runner, it’s part of my identity. So, I thought right let’s get on it. I was in hospital for 5 to 6 days, then I put my feet up but 25 days later I ran a 5K. I don’t know how, don’t ask me!

Matt, a white male in running shorts and t shirt with a running medal.

A week later I did a 10K, then the Great South Run which is 10 miles the next week, a week later an obstacle race in Wales. All for charity. It gave me that goal and something to focus on. It gave me that resilience that I won’t let this stop me. The surgeon was amazed.

Then I had a few months off. I had radiotherapy on 15th December, that was the worst part of all it by miles. Horrific. I had a radioactive iodine pill it made me radioactive, Chernobyl is a level 3 on Geiger counter, on day 1 I was a level 60! I was glowing in the dark. It was so dangerous, I had to stay in a lead lined room in the hospital for 3 or 4 days. No good TV, the isolation, sickness, the fatigue was awful.

“I recently learned that the cancer has returned and no treatment can get rid of it.”

My healthcare team need to keep a very close eye on me now but for next 5 years or so it will be fine. It’s not the best news but I woke up this morning and thought now I get to live my life.

Having cancer has tested me to the limits, but it has made me realise that life is precious. You should try and take enjoyment out of life as much as you can. When you think you have only got a certain number of days left, you don’t want to spend them being miserable. I am always up for a laugh; people know I will always laugh at their rubbish jokes.

More information about Matt's fundraising

Matt is taking on the world’s major marathons (London, Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago, New York and Boston) raising money for Macmillan and the American Cancer Society (due to Macmillan not having places in the Boston and Chicago marathons).