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Performer Matt beats cancer to sing again

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 30, 2012

Father-of-three Matt Byrne

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Soul singer Matt Byrne thought he'd never lift the microphone again after being told he had cancer of the tongue.

At the age of 36, Matt was looking forward to the birth of his third child when his consultant delivered the shattering news that a small, rosebud like growth in his mouth was aggressive cancer.

When he was told he would have to undergo immediate treatment, including removing more than 4cm of his tongue, his reaction was understandable.

"When I was diagnosed with cancer I passed out," said Matt, from Bradninch, near Exeter.

"I remember thinking I wanted to have surgery before my daughter was born. It was a case for me of divide and conquer.

"The team at the Royal Devon Hospital took me though the process and said I could get through it and from that moment on I believed them."

His life-changing moment happened after a visit to the dentist at the end of 2008 and at a time when he hoped his singing career would hit the big time with a TV appearance. "I discovered a spot like a little rosebud on my tongue," he said.

"My wife had convinced me to go to my GP after it started bleeding.

"I did however manage to audition for the X Factor after having a biopsy. But when I was asked if there was any reason I couldn't go forward to the next round I told them I might have cancer."

When the results of the biopsy revealed the extent of his cancer, Matt said he went in to survival mode.

"My wife was eight months pregnant with our third child when it was confirmed it was oral cancer. I underwent a 13-and-a-half hour operation a couple of days before her due date and didn't see my daughter until she was three days old."

Matt's wife, Sera, had a home birth and he can vividly remember being wheeled in to see his new daughter.

Immediately after his operation, Matt underwent intensive speech therapy as he was unable to pronounce certain letters. Half of his tongue is now paralysed and the left side is numb, having the muscle from his wrist grafted to replace what was taken.

But Matt, a freelance metal and plastics fabricator, has now been able to return to sing with his band Soul Traders.

"It was hard but I now appreciate life more," he said.

"I have always had a positive attitude, and was always laughing and joking. That got me through and I have to thank the doctors and surgeons who helped me.

The 39-year-old recently joined forces with Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 as part of the Stand Up To Cancer campaign.

"We need to fight back against this disease by raising money so that brilliant research can be translated into treatments for patients faster."

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