A man diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour has outlived his "crushing" five-year prognosis to find love.
Matthew Stride, from Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, was just 26 when he was given the news he was living with an incurable grade three anaplastic astrocytoma – a rare malignant brain tumour – in 2015.
At the time he was given just five or six years to live, but now 33, he has defied his initial prognosis by two years, fallen in love with his now wife, Amy, and hopes to start a family.
While he has always been fit and healthy, during a five-a-side football match in 2014 Stride noticed “something wasn’t right”.
“I just couldn’t move,” the client success specialist explains.
“I wasn’t chasing the ball; I just stood there and was completely frozen. I was aware of what was going on around me, but I just couldn’t react to anything.”
The experience prompted Matthew to see his GP in January 2015.
He underwent various tests and scans over the following months, but doctors suggested he could be suffering from anxiety or epilepsy.
It wasn't until a family friend, who is a doctor, suggested that Stride get an MRI in November 2015 that he received the “devastating” news that he had a lesion on his brain.
It was later discovered this lesion was in fact an incurable brain tumour, the size of a tennis ball.
“My whole world was turned upside down,” Stride explains.
“I was assigned to an oncologist who talked me through the next steps and, obviously, give me the dreaded prognosis.
Stride says being given his expected life expectancy was the hardest thing to hear.
“To get a prognosis of five to six years was crushing,” Stride explains.
“You have these plans for your future and what you want in life, but you never really imagine you’re going to be given five or six years to live.
"My mum and dad were both in the room with me and my dad broke down," he continues.
“It was one of the first times I’d seen him cry, which is obviously never easy to see anyway, but when it involves you, it’s even worse.
“That was a tough day.”
On 6 January 2016 Stride underwent a seven-hour craniotomy procedure to remove as much of the tumour as possible at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
In order to limit the risk of damage to the healthy areas of his brain, Stride was awake for part of the operation and has been left with a scar which measures approximately four inches by three inches.
While he recovered well after the operation, he then faced months of gruelling treatment, which caused him to suffer from sickness, hair loss and debilitating fatigue.
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Stride was also told his treatment may cause infertility, which was another devastating blow, as he hoped to get married and have a family of his own one day.
"There were a couple of weeks when I felt down; you’re always thinking about (the future) and it’s not something you can just easily forget or erase from your memory," he explains.
“It was very, very difficult.”
Stride's treatment finished at the end of March 2016, and he had a break before a six-cycle course of further chemotherapy drugs aimed at preventing the tumour from growing back.
“I think the key was just to get on with it, I suppose; to keep on carrying on,” he says.
“The treatment was always in the back of my mind, but once that was done, I just wanted to focus on living and getting on with life.”
Stride's recovery went well and, two years on, in 2019, he met his now wife Amy, 30, a finance director.
He has since been informed by doctors that his treatment did not cause infertility, so the couple are now hoping to have children one day.
Up until March 2022 Stride was having scans every three to four months to check on the tumour, but it has now been decided he only needs them every six months because it is currently stable.
His last appointment, in September last year, revealed the tumour is not currently visible, which he describes as “incredible”.
He is now training to run the London Marathon in April to raise money for Brain Tumour Research, hoping to raise £3,500 for the charity.
“I feel like I’m in a good place for it," he explains.
"I wanted to get involved to say thank you.”
To find out more, visit Stride’s fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mjstride7.
Additional reporting PA.