Friends who fought cancer meet at last

Road trip: Matt, right, and Regan, with the famous Sydney Opera House behind them
Road trip: Matt, right, and Regan, with the famous Sydney Opera House behind them

Two teenagers on opposite sides of the world who were successfully treated for the same form of childhood liver cancer have met up more than 15 years after their families became friends.

Eighteen-year-olds Matthew Whiley, of Halifax, and Regan Leatch met up in Regan’s home city of Sydney, Australia, and they enjoyed a road trip through New South Wales, getting as far up as Australia’s capital Canberra and went to the first test of the Ashes series together in November.

When they were toddlers both boys underwent treatmnent for hepatoblastoma, a liver cancer that affects young children.

Matt’s mum Angela says: “It wasn’t the best year but we had the best outcome.

“Matt needed lots of chemotherapy, surgery and more chemotherapy. When he was originally diagnosed were were told he had a 50-50 chance.

“It was in the early days of the internet and after Matt was given the all clear I was looking to link up with other mums with children in the same situation, I wanted to reassure them. Regan was diagnosed just four weeks after Matt on the other side of the world.

“I emailed her via the blog, we got chatting and we have stayed in touch ever since, especially by social media. We have never met but we are close.”

Matt and Regan’s own friendship developed, getting in touch via Facebook, and discovered they had more than their childhood battles against cancer in common, both particularly loving cricket and their local sports.

Once Matt had finished his A-levels in the summer and Regan his Australian equivalents in November, the meet-up in Australia became possible and soon the two men were on their road trip.

“It was really exciting and they had a whale of a time,” said Angela.

For the first three or four years after their sons were diagnosed with hepatoblastoma they exchanged information with other parents about the condition, less so in recent years as their experience became not as relevant - treatment changes and has improved over the years - while still offering their support.

The condition received worldwide publicity when it was revealed singer Michael Buble’s young son was battling the disease.

More advice about similar conditions is available on loine from charities such as CLIC Sargent which offers support to children battling forms of the disease and their families (www.clicsargent.org.uk)