A fitness-obsessed primary school teacher whose lifestyle revolved around trying to live as long as possible died just 20 days after a bombshell leukaemia diagnosis.
Matt Meads, 33, coupled regular exercise with a self-imposed ban on alcohol, smoking and junk food to avoid health problems in old age.
So when he began suffering stomach pains, night sweats and fatigue for weeks, the gym-goer shrugged it off as end-of-term tiredness.
But he and his heartbroken wife Abi, 27, were soon rocked by a shock blood cancer diagnosis which killed Mr Meads in less than three weeks.
Within days of her ‘positive’ husband being told he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Mrs Meads was confronted with the nightmare of seeing her beloved lying in intensive care.
And in a cruelly short space of time, she watched his health plummet before he died from pulmonary embolism after just three chemotherapy sessions.
Still raw from the death of her ‘soulmate’, the widow has spoken of the horror of finding out her husband was suffering with a rare cancerous disease.
Matt Meads, a teacher who wanted to live as long as possible, died only 20 days after a ‘shock’ leukaemia diagnosis – aged just 33 (pictured with his wife Abi)
Abi Meads, 27, claims her husband Matt Meads avoided drinking and smoking and made a big effort to exercise and eat well to avoid health problems later in life
Mrs Meads, from Nottingham, said: ‘I’ve got so many people around me offering help and support but I still feel really lonely because I’ve lost my best mate, my husband, my soulmate.
‘We knew he was poorly, but maybe not quite how poorly he was. I certainly wasn’t expecting a phone call from the hospital.
‘I don’t know how I am now. It’s hard. I don’t think I really started to grieve until after the funeral.
‘It’s hard to think ahead for anything. It’s a case of taking everything one day at a time. Some days are better than others. Some days are horrific and I don’t want to get out of bed.
‘Matt was a really happy person. He was really positive. He was kind, caring, loving, wicked sense of humour. He would make a joke about anything and was very quick-witted.
Teacher Matt began suffering with stomach pains, night sweats and fatigue for weeks, but he and Abi dismissed it as end of school year fatigue, a stomach bug and summer heat
‘As a teacher he would have done anything for his students. He would have done anything for his family.
‘He was just a really positive person who would have done anything for anybody.
‘He loved his sport. He would go to the gym, he loved being outside and walking. He liked cycling. He was careful about what he ate.
‘Everything the doctors warn you about, he didn’t do. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he had a good diet, he exercised.
‘He always put suncream on because he was paranoid he might catch skin cancer or something.
‘He did everything he could to try and prevent anything from happening to him. As the doctors said there was nothing he could have done to prevent this.’
Mr Meads first mentioned feeling weak on July 6, which later developed into violently vomiting to the point of being unable to keep ice cubes down.
After visiting his GP and being referred to hospital, he was told he had gastroenteritis or constipation, but it wasn’t until he returned for a second time that they did a blood test and exposed the leukamia.
Abi had to watch her husband go from happy and sporty to intensive care within days, before he passed away from a pulmonary embolism after just three chemotherapy sessions
In a cruelly short space of time, Mrs Meads watched her husband’s health plummet before he died from pulmonary embolism after just three chemotherapy sessions
Mrs Meads, who works as a teacher too, said: ‘Obviously I wish it was spotted sooner. I don’t feel any anger towards to the hospital. I genuinely believe they did everything they could for him.
‘He would say he was feeling sick. He would send a text saying he wasn’t feeling well so was going to bed. I was out with some friends.
‘He said something about feeling hot as well, but we didn’t put that down to anything because it was the middle of summer and everyone was feeling hot.
‘He was sleeping a lot, particularly at weekends which he would spend mostly asleep.
‘But we’re both teachers, it was coming up to the end of the school year and we had both got a lot of work on. We put it down to the job, and just tried to keep going because we had five weeks off soon.
‘We thought it was the usual fatigue that we feel at the end of the year. There were sickness bugs going around at both of our schools so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
‘He was referred to A&E for the second time thinking it was gallstones. They did some blood tests on him, sent him for a CT scan. The doctor came back and basically said that it was leukaemia.
Mr Meads first started mentioning his tiredness on July 6, and Mrs Meads urged him to go to the doctor after he started vomiting to the point of being unable to keep ice cubes down
‘Matt was a really positive person and was always somebody who believed what would be would be, it is what it is and all that stuff.
‘So when the doctor told him he was quite composed. He didn’t really give anything away about what he was feeling.
‘It was obviously a massive shock for him but he didn’t really respond in the way I would have done. He was listening to the doctor.
WHAT IS ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKAEMIA?
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of blood cancer that starts from young white blood cells in the bone marrow.
There are around 810 new cases in the UK every year. In the US, ALL affects approximately 1.7 adults per 100,000.
Anyone can develop ALL, however, it mainly affects younger people.
Many ALL symptoms are vague and flu-like, such as:
- General weakness
- Frequent infections
- Bruising or bleeding easily, including nosebleeds, heavy periods and blood in the urine or faeces
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bone or joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Feeling full
- Paler skin than normal
Risks for developing ALL include exposure to radiation, smoking, being overweight and having a weak immune system.
Research suggests being breastfed and exposed to childhood infections may reduce a person’s risk.
The main ALL treatment is chemotherapy. Patients may also have radiotherapy, steroids or bone marrow transplants.
Source: Cancer Research UK
‘The doctor actually stopped at one point to ask him if he was okay, it was really big news and is he taking it all in? Matt’s response was, “yes, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It is what it is”.
‘He was definitely really brave.’
Now Mrs Meads is speaking out to urge others to get checked out and insist for a blood test if they have persistent symptoms of blood cancer.
She said: ‘If you’ve got any of the symptoms which are lasting or you can’t explain why you’ve got them, you need to go to the doctor and get checked out and be persistent in asking for a blood test.
‘You know your own body. It’s as simple as having a blood test.
‘If you’ve got it for days and it’s not getting any better, if you’re in any doubt, get it checked. We didn’t know what the symptoms were.
‘The only one I knew was bruising, but Matt didn’t have any bruises until he was in hospital. So the one thing I knew wasn’t relevant. I didn’t realise about the night sweats, fatigue or heavy breathing.
‘We never expected it would be that. We had thought worst case scenario it was gallstones or an impacted bowel, so when he came and said leukaemia it was just unexpected.
‘When you’re poorly you have all these possibilities going through your head but you never think it’s going to be that.
‘I had a really good chat with Matt’s consultant where I questioned whether I should have done more, if I had spotted things sooner, whether if I had been more pushy in getting him to hospital.
‘But the symptoms are vague and it can come on within days. It doesn’t have to be something that has been happening for weeks or months.’