A Brasenose student has died from leukaemia the day after marrying his university sweetheart.
Matt Carver, aged 22, passed away just hours after tying the knot with Nicola Godfrey, his 21-year-old fiancée from New College.
The couple had planned to get married in two years’ time, but decided to bring the ceremony forward when doctors told them that history student Matt had only weeks to live.
Matt had proposed to Nicola just two months beforehand in December last year. Their plans were shattered however when Matt was suddenly taken ill weeks into their new term at Oxford University.
Weighed down by his academic career, as well an array of extra-curricular pursuits and job applications, neither Matt nor his wife-to-be had given much thought to the severe bouts of tiredness he had been experiencing.
However, when the young fiancé suffered a small cut on his finger that wouldn’t stop bleeding that the pair decided he should visit his GP. Later that day however, following several blood tests, doctors had to break the news to Matt that he had contracted the blood cancer leukemia.
Matt was determined to fight the illness, but after three courses of debilitating chemotherapy he developed a facial paralysis – an indication the disease had reached his brain.
With signs that they might not have much longer together, the young couple rushed their wedding forward so that they would still be able to enjoy some time together as husband and wife.
After a ceremony surrounded by family and friends at Brasenose College chapel, the wedding party had dinner at Oxford’s Old Bank Hotel. Yet the following morning, Matt began complaining of a headache and he was rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Realising his condition, the registrar who had been handling his treatment ordered staff to remove all drips and other equipment from Matt and to move him into to a private room. Later that afternoon, with his wife and their immediate families by his side, he died.
Mathematics student Nicola Carver later paid tribute to the bravery that her husband had shown following the last fatal diagnosis.
“They told us that it was going to be weeks, possibly months,” said Nicola. “It was a massive shock but we could plan things and do things which we had put on hold when he was initially diagnosed.”
“I will never, ever forget how brave he was.
“Matt was the kind of person who put his heart and soul into everything he did.
“He was a fantastic man and I will miss him very much. Even when he was ill he still managed to make everybody laugh.”
Mrs Carver added that she took some comfort from the two of them being able to make the commitment to each other before he died.
“It was a true celebration of our love and was everything that we had dreamed of since we decided to get married,” she said.
“Matt was desperate to get married and it was such a relief to get through the day and become his wife but obviously we would have wanted more time together.
“He looked fantastic, dressed up to the nines in his top hat and tails.
“I’m told by his dad that when he was waiting for me to come in he kept on asking: ‘What time is it? What time is it now?’
“He was just like any other groom.”
Showing her own determination and courage, Nicola said that she intends to return to Oxford to complete her degree this Michaelmas term.
She said: “I have lots of friends who are still there and who are going to take care of me.
“I have to at least try. If I don’t go back now, then I’ll never go back.”
She and Matt – both passionate musicians – had first met on a University wind orchestra trip to St Tropez in 2006.
Brasenose College, where Matt had been studying medieval history, lowered its flag to half mast in recognition of its loss, following his death earlier this summer. More than 500 mourners packed his hometown funeral 11 days after his death to say their last goodbyes.
The student, from Newport, South Wales, had been an active member of the college, representing the them in rowing, cricket and football before he was struck down by illness.
Chaplain the Reverend Graeme Richardson particularly paid tribute to him, saying: “He was an outstanding all-round student, who was involved in many aspects of the college.”
Matt and Nicola’s families have since launched campaigns to raise money for two specialist cancer charities – the Anthony Nolan Trust and Leukaemia Research. They are urging people between 18 and 40 to join the bone marrow register. For more details or to make a donation please contact the trust on 0901 882 2234 or visit www.anthonynolan.org.uk.