'My second cancer fight after 20 years - and two months after proposing'
PUBLISHED: 09:54 27 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:07 28 January 2019
A Norfolk man who fought off cancer as a toddler has spoken about how the disease returned 20 years later just two months after he had proposed to his girlfriend.
Tom Stevenson, 24, from Wymondham, who sharing his experiences as the face of a World Cancer Day campaign for the charity CLIC Sargent, was just three years old when he was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997.
He said: “I can’t really remember much of my first tumour. Mum and dad took me to all sorts of specialists, and then at some point, they scanned my head and found a tumour which stretched from the back of left eye to the bottom of my brain stem.
“I had an operation, which the doctors said there was a 50/50 chance whether I would survive – they also warned that if I did survive, there would be a chance that I wouldn’t be capable of doing anything. They removed 80pc of the tumour thankfully.”
Following his treatment, he had a ‘normal childhood’ albeit with the scars from treatment which he said “wasn’t fun, but lived with it”. He went on to high school and college followed by a career as a chef for a mass catering company.
Then in 2017, just two months after he had popped the question to his long term girlfriend Amy, Tom, then aged 22, collapsed and had two seizures. After many tests, he was told his tumour had returned.
“At that point, I was just in denial, thinking ‘why me?’ – I couldn’t believe it. It was horrible to think I’d have to go through hell,” he recalls. “I kept thinking about how Amy had a fiancé, who was going through an operation, radiotherapy and chemo, it was really hard to put her through that.
“It was like it was another person who had to go through this, as well as my family going through it again. Amy was still in her final year at university – she was with me throughout my treatment, and we were planning the wedding as well – that was hard.”
He was told he had a Grade 4 tumour and would need an operation which had a 50/50 success rate. Thankfully the operation was a success with 80pc of the tumour being removed. He had intensive radiotherapy and a further six months of chemotherapy treatment.
“At the time, I was going to the hospital about every two weeks for my treatment, but there were days where I’d be violently sick so I’d have to go in for tablets to help.
“My treatment has left its mark – it’s left me with nightmares. At the time, I was keeping it all in, it was fine and I just got on with it – you deal with the situation one day at a time. It’s when it’s all over, that’s when it hits you.”
Tom finally finished treatment last February and married Amy in September.
SUPPORT AFTER SHOCK DIAGNOSIS
After his shock diagnosis Tom received support from a CLIC Sargent social worker who provided practical, emotional and financial support.
“If I didn’t have CLIC Sargent, my mental health would be very low and I would be a completely different person,” he explains. “Hannah would call me weekly, just to check in. To have that time to get everything off my chest and just talk about me and what was happening was really, really helpful.
“She was there for my wife and family as well. She spent time with my sister, asking how she was. She talked to my mum and Amy and supported them as well if they needed it. Hannah went above and beyond.”
In the build up to World Cancer Day on February 4, Tom is encouraging the public to donate £2 to get CLIC Sargent Band Against Cancer wristband. For more details visit World Cancer Day
He said: “It’s important to me to give something back to CLIC Sargent because they were vital in my treatment. It may seem like a small thing to make a donation and wear a wristband but I know the massive difference it will make to people like me who will have that support from the charity.”