Boss calls out trainee teacher’s ‘strange’ behaviour and unwittingly saves his life


A trainee teacher who received a tragic brain tumour diagnosis has said his boss saved his life after they called out his “strange” behaviour.

Dad-of-two Matt Schlag first realised something was wrong during his studies to become a primary school teacher around the time he began developing migraines.

His then boss at GORSE Academies Trust in Leeds called out Matt’s strange behaviour, including poor timekeeping and getting confused mid-conversation. As well as that, he was even getting lost around the school.

This led to the 43-year-old visiting his local hospital where he was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumour in October 2019.

He says his boss unwittingly saved his life.

Matt, dad to Reuben, two, and Anja, four, said: “I kept on getting really awful migraines every other day.

“They were really intense, and I was also getting lost in conversations and forgetting my words, it was really weird.

“My boss said ‘you need to get this properly checked out because you’re behaving strangely’, as my timekeeping had become so poor and I was getting lost not only in conversations but around the school building itself.

“I was away with the fairies and I wasn’t my usual eloquent self. I was awkward in conversation and I wasn’t really engaging with people like I usually would.”

Matt said his boss was “instrumental” in helping him get diagnosed and added that he “saved my life”.

In October 2019 Matt, who is married to Louise, 36, went to A&E at Leeds General Infirmary and said he “insisted” on having a scan.

Matt said: “The scan showed that there was something on my brain. This came as a massive shock to me and my family.

“Three days later, which happened to be my daughter’s second birthday, I underwent surgery. The operation went well, and I was so elated that when I woke up, I was singing ‘Aqua Azzura’ in Italian.

“I don’t know if it was the drugs I was on, but I just felt so happy because I’m fluent in Italian, and this meant that I hadn’t lost my language skills completely.”

Matt settled in for three months of radiotherapy and 12 months of chemo but in August 2020 a check-up showed his tumour had grown again.

This left him and Louise heartbroken and on September 2020 he had a second operation followed by sixth months of chemo.

Now, Matt will take on the 55-mile London to Brighton Cycle Ride on 11 September with his friends Chris Lumb, 44, and Chris Keithley, 43, to raise money for the charity Brain Tumour Research.

He said: “I just wanted to make something positive out of what’s happened. It’s so important to raise money to help find a cure because, until a cure is found, there’s always the worry that the tumour can come back again.”

Matthew Price, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research said: “We’re really grateful to Matt and his two friends for taking on this challenge, as it’s only with the support of people like them that we’re able to progress our research into brain tumours and improve the outcome for patients like Matt who are forced to fight this awful disease.

“Brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time. Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital.”