Driven league young­ster tack­les can­cer

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - SAMHEWAT

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.’’

SAM HEWAT/ FAIRFAX NZ

Matt Manukuo was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in 2016 but fought his way to re­cov­ery.

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