AN inspirational youngster who lived life to the full died in the arms of his parents after being cruelly struck down with cancer.
Matthew Olley played rugby for his town, swam for a club, was head boy at his school and would spend hours on his motocross bike.
But the fit and active 11-year-old had his life tragically cut short by a tumour that grew to the size of a baseball in his brain.
The brave boy fought for eight months through chemotherapy and radiotherapy after undergoing two operations, but the cancer was too aggressive.
He died in his High Hesleden home as his doting parents, Catherine and Darren, said goodbye on November 4.
Sat surrounded by cards and gifts, a tearful Catherine told the Mail: “He had his whole life ahead of him. We sit and think about what he could have done.
“He was only 11, but he had already done so much. He touched so many people’s lives.”
Catherine and Darren’s world turned upside down on March 18 when Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
He had been unwell for five months and would repeatedly vomit, but doctors thought he was suffering from a virus.
The next day he was taken to the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and underwent two operations to remove around half of the tumour and had four drains put in his head.
He didn’t wake up until four days later, and medics decided more surgery was not necessary.
Matthew, who is brother to Grace, five, started chemotherapy and radiotherapy in April and stayed in the RVI for three months, during which time he met former Oasis star Liam Gallagher.
The keen Sunderland AFC fan also had a dream visit to the club’s Stadium of Light, where he met the players and got to sit in the dugout.
The club’s star striker at the time, Asamoah Gyan, even sent him a signed matchday shirt and a DVD containing a personal message of support.
Catherine, who works in human resources for Marriott International, said: “Matthew was a very special boy.
“I know all parents say that about their child, but he had such a personality and that showed right up until the end.
“We had moved into our dream home and everything was fine, but then suddenly it all changed. If anything, we have learned from him that you have to live your life to the full.
“Even when he was ill he never moaned once and we have such good memories right up until we lost him.
“We are also thankful to everyone at the hospitals who helped Matthew. You still have it in the back of your mind about what happened if they found it earlier. But we’ve been told it was too aggressive a form of cancer and he still would have died.”
During his last few months back at home, Billingham Rugby Club player Matthew and his dad went searching for a new transporter van to carry motocross bikes.
They ordered the vehicle in the hope that Matthew, who swam for Billingham Forum Swimming Club, would be able to use it when he recovered.
Tragically, he died the day after it was delivered to his home.
“It was like he had waited for it to come,” said Darren, who works for haulage firm Sutton & Son.
“It was his dream, and something he was looking forward to.”
Catherine said: “As a parent, I thought if you are going to go, go quickly. He just slipped away in our arms at home.”
Matthew also won a Brave Heart award for his outstanding courage and was due to pick up the honour on November 8 in a glitzy ceremony at Newcastle United FC.
The former pupil at Wolviston Primary School, who started at Billingham’s Northfield School & Sports College in September, was laid to rest at St Peter’s Church, in Wolviston Village, where that many people attended the service that 100 people had to stand outside.
Family friend Tony Nicholson also drove a flat-bed TW Nicholson truck from Aberdeen to lead the precession with the name Matthew spelt out in 11ft-long flowers on the back.
The family are facing further uncertainty as they undergo tests because Matthew is the third in Catherine’s line to die from a brain tumour.
Catherine added: “It’s not thought to be genetic but they want to check. At least it will give us peace of mind.”
She added that the support from family and friends has been “incredible” and thanked everyone for their help and wishes.
The parents are also hoping to raise funds for the Children’s Butterwick Hospice and Clic Sergeant, two charities that supported Matthew and his family during their ordeal.
l Follow Mark Thompson on Twitter @MThompsonHMail