Monday, May 11, 2009

Royal battle with cancer

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League star hit by son's devastating diagnosis

CATH BENNETT - Sunday News
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2009

WARRIORS star Jesse Royal fears no one on the football field.

But the tough-as-teak prop has been left devastated after his three-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer.

Doctors broke the heartbreaking news to Jesse and wife Kylie last month and the pair have since watched helplessly as little Matarae undergoes gruelling chemotherapy.

The tot has stage three Burkitt's lymphoma a cancer of the immune system, which has led to the growth of a tumour.

"For a kid who's about to turn four, he's a pretty tough little man," Kylie wrote on a webpage devoted to her brave boy.

"At first he was scared with all the needles and tubes, but he's learning to deal with it ."

Jesse has spent the last few weeks dividing his time between his son's bedside at Auckland's Starship children's hospital and training with the Warriors, who he'll turn out for against the North Queensland Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium today.

The former New Zealand army chef only returned to his homeland in February having moved to Oz in 2004 and three years later making his NRL first-grade debut with the Newcastle Knights.

When his contract ended, he began working in the coal mines in Newcastle and planned to join a local club until the Warriors came knocking and signed him up for two years.

But the Waikato-born league star's world fell apart on April 16 when, after a series of tests, he was told Matarae had cancer.

While their son's illness is too painful for the 28-year-old or his wife to talk about, the couple are hoping their plight will raise funds for the Child Cancer Foundation.

"I looked at my son and my heart broke," Kylie wrote. "I couldn't believe this was happening."

Matarae, who has a little brother Tumai, began his first bout of chemotherapy on April 27 and nine days later was discharged from hospital. But a viral infection saw him back at Starship eight days ago, where he has remained as he prepares for his next round of chemo next week.

Helping the family pull through have been donations and messages of support from the many people who have visited Kylie's webpage.

Warriors coach Ivan Cleary and wife Rebecca, plus legendary halfback Stacey Jones and wife Rachelle, are among those who have pledged generous amounts and left thoughtful comments.

"I am absolutely amazed at the loving support from everyone," Kylie wrote.

"Thank you so much."