Meet the Yorkshire man who should never have been born due to his father's bone cancer - and is now leading the fight against it
Lawrence Cottle was just 23 when he was given his devastating diagnosis - and was told he had nine months to live and would never be able to have children. Not only did he confound doctors' expectations by living for another 17 years, he was also able to have a son - Mat - with his wife Pamela.
Sadly, Lawrence died when Mat was just 10 years old but the impact of his father's condition is still strongly felt and in 2015 he took up a role at the Bone Cancer Research Trust, which is based in Leeds.
And in what Mat, who is from Hemingfield in Barnsley, has described as making his "story go full circle", he has now taken up the role of CEO for the charity which he cares so passionately about.
The family even featured in the national newspapers when Mat was born. Because of the highly toxic nature of his treatment, Lawrence was told he would never be able to father a son and if he did, it would likely have developmental issues or be born deformed.
Mat said: "Seven years into his treatment they went to a fertility clinic and found they were pregnant – with me. I was named ‘Matthew’ as it means gift of god and, much to everyone’s surprise, I was fully healthy.
"After my birth my dad went on having multiple operations, in and out of hospital and countless rounds of chemotherapy. He survived another 10 years before passing away when I was 10 in 1997. From initially being given nine months to live when he was 23, he survived until he was 40."
"Talk about a full circle story, from a boy never meant to be born due to bone cancer now leading the fight against it."
The BCRT celebrates its 15th year this year but Mat said while progress has been made on research into the disease, the treatments available have barely improved since his father was diagnosed in the 1980s.
Many people with bone cancer are misdiagnosed with sporting injuries because it often affects young people, and Mat said this is still happening. Just last week, The Yorkshire Post told the story of Brandon Hackett, who has been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma aged 20, which was originally thought to be a pulled muscle from lifting weights in the gym.
Mat added: "It’s an absolute honour to have been appointed CEO of the Bone Cancer Research Trust, a cause I care so passionately about. This role comes at a vital time for the charity as we develop our longer-term plans and accelerate our work towards new treatments and improving outcomes for patients.
"BCRT has an incredibly talented and dedicated team, but we could not have achieved so much over the years without the primary bone cancer community, which is a community like no other. Every single day, inspirational individuals selflessly take on all manner of challenges and fundraising activities to raise funds for our life-saving work.
"My determination for the charity to succeed comes from my own experiences and those of all our patients and supporters.
"With the continued support of our community, we will leave no stone unturned to find a cure for this currently under-funded and under-profiled disease. The entire Bone Cancer Research Trust team will continue to work tirelessly every day for every patient facing bone cancer."
Andy Lewis, Chair of Trustees, said: "Mat has played a central role at the charity for six years and his commitment, dedication and expertise has led to growth in all areas of the charity. We faced unprecedented times during the pandemic and Mat held a vital role in ensuring the continuation of our work whilst steering us through uncertain times.
"We are delighted that Mat is our new CEO and as the charity grows, Mat’s wealth of expertise will enable us to continue to develop and grow, alongside the effective delivery of our charitable objectives."