Driven league youngster tackles cancer
Matt Manukuo finished Auckland’s Round the Bays earlier this month, six months after knocking off a race he never thought he’d have to run.
The 16-year-old rugby league die-hard had his life turned upside down in 2016 when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. At the end of 2015 Matt began vomiting and sleeping up to 12 hours a day. Life became increasingly confusing as numer- ous trips to the doctors came with few answers.
‘‘Every week they’d send me back with different medicine,’’ Manukuo said.
‘‘Every week they’d send me back with something stronger, and it wouldn’t work.’’
Things escalated when on his first day back at Avondale College in 2016, Manukuo thought he was going blind.
‘‘I looked down at my book, looked up to write some notes, and I couldn’t see anything.’’
His next trip to the doctors ended in a referral to the hospital where a scan revealed a brain tumour.
‘‘I didn’t sleep much night,’’ he said.
‘‘I messaged my friends but none of them messaged back because they were just in shock.’’
He was most scared about what his family was thinking.
‘‘I didn’t want to see them see me go through such pain. I tried to play it off as easily as I could, just to comfort them, so that that they’d think I was well.’’
Matt, true to his rugby league nature, viewed the battle as a game.
When chemo finished, the tumour had not changed in size and Matt underwent brain surgery to have it removed on June 9.
‘‘It felt like the climax to everything. All the surgeries, chemo sessions, radiation, it all ended in that one day, so I was really overwhelmed.
‘‘I could finally carry on with my life.’’
All Matt could think about when he was sick was getting back on the rugby league field with his teammates at Mt Albert. He’ll use his journey to encourage his teammates and inspire them, but he’ll also use it as motivation to achieve his own rugby league goals.
‘‘Hopefully I make it into the NRL,’’ Manukuo said.
‘‘I know that’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’ve got that mental strength now that nothing can stop me.’’
Matt Manukuo was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 but fought his way to recovery.