Matthew Bell thought not being selected for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with Ireland’s Green Machine was the worst day of his life. Little did he know the hardest times were ahead of him.
Once an international hockey player, Bell’s life was upended when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumour while playing professionally in Germany.
Despite the hard times he has now released a new biography recounting his journey back to the pitch through facing multiple surgeries, the loss of basic human life skills, and a gruelling rehabilitation.
When it came to sharing his story, Bell, 28, was inspired by someone with a similar experience.
He explained: “Whenever I was going through my recovery I watched a YouTube video of a police officer who had a brain stem stroke. I couldn’t believe how similar our recovery processes were and I saw that she had written a book.
“I messaged her and she sent me the book out and I read it in two days, I couldn’t set it down. It made me want to document my recovery.”
Bell spent six weeks in hospital in Germany and endured five surgeries before being flown home to Belfast by air ambulance to start cancer treatment. While away from home he stopped eating, talking and walking for seven weeks.
His parents were told by the consultant neurologist that he couldn’t tell them if their son would ever walk or talk again.
“The first day I ran unaided my dad said to me he didn’t think he’d ever see me run again. I was in a wheelchair for two months so the first time I ran unaided, I cried.”
“A lot of people have said over the course of my recovery that it’s inspirational and all these different things and I thought if I could get that down into a few words, if it can help benefit the charity that I stayed in for my cancer treatment as well then why not?
“The idea behind the book is if you do feel like there is something wrong go get yourself checked out because you never know what the issue could be.”
For Bell the future looks bright.
“I’m back playing hockey. I’m assistant coach for the men’s firsts at Banbridge and I’m helping out with a couple of Ulster things as well,” he said.
“I’ve also recently got engaged and I’d like to say thanks to Jane for being by my side and helping me with the book. You’ve been my rock over the last couple of years and I can’t wait to get married.”
Second Chances, which will support Friends of The Cancer Centre, is £9.99 and is available from excaliburpress.co.uk