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Cancer survivor’s call to aid charity

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A FROME man who was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer and thought he’d never have children,  is now a proud father who is determined to give back to the charities who helped him.

Having gone through 39 operations in 14 years, Tony Hodges saw his physical health and mental state plummet – and he got to a point where he considered taking his own life.

But after years of treatment and progress in research – life has turned a corner for  the 35-year-old. The father from Frome lost his younger brother Germaine to the same disease at the age of 27, five years ago. His mum was also diagnosed with bowel cancer and following surgery and chemo has since been well.

He is now proud dad to a son, Castiel aged 15 months and stepdad to Millie aged 16. After years of cancer treatment his life has turned a corner thanks to research and the help of charities like Cancer Research UK, who helped him pull through.

So now, he’s determined to help protect people with cancer from the heart-breaking fall-out of the pandemic.

Cancer Research UK is predicting a staggering £300million drop in income over the next three years, which could put future breakthroughs at risk.

Earlier this month, the charity was forced to slash £45million from its research budget. This comes on top of the £44million of cuts that were made to the charity’s current grants at the start of the pandemic, as well as not being able to fund any new clinical trials this year.

That’s why Tony’s sharing his story to complement Cancer Research UK’s latest TV appeal, which features a direct plea for donations from leading scientist, Professor Richard Gilbertson.

The message in the film is clear – to save lives tomorrow, the charity needs the public’s support today.

Tony said, “My experience means I understand the importance of Cancer Research UK’s work all too clearly. I was absolutely devastated when I heard the words ‘you have cancer’. My first thought was knowing what my mum had been through. Having been told I had stage four cancer and would die within six months if I didn’t have an operation to remove my large intestine was devastating. I was only 21.”

Tony underwent a 15-hour operation to remove his large intestine and two years later was back in hospital because polyps had grown and spread inside his small intestine.

Tony was violently sick most days in hospital. “I looked grey, my quality of life was awful, and I was told the cancer may return,” he said.  “Having gone through 39 operations in 14 years I was feeling rock bottom and I had got to a point when I considered taking my own life.

“I underwent counselling thanks to my GP who referred me for talking therapy. Thanks to family and friends, I was able to pull through.” 

In 2011 whilst Tony was in remission, his younger brother Germaine was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 23.  Sadly, his health deteriorated rapidly, when the cancer had spread throughout his body. He died aged 27.

“Germaine had it bad, but nobody expected him to die. The cancer had spread within six months and he was gone. We have all been affected by his death, no-one more so than my mum. They were really close, and she has been devastated by this.”

Tony was told he may not be able to have children. His stepdaughter Millie was 4 years old at the time and Tony and Vicky didn’t think they would be able to have children together.

“Vicky told me she had something to tell me and when she broke the news that she was pregnant, I thought I had been pranked. I really couldn’t believe it. As soon as he was born Castiel and Millie get on brilliantly, he adores her.”

 Tony and Vicky have this Christmas turned their house in Frome into a fantastic gingerbread house, complete with over 15,000 bulbs, to raise money for Cancer Research UK. They have raised over £850 so far, with people stopping to see the lights display and donating to the cause.

 Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of the progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.

 Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity currently funds around 50% of all publicly funded cancer research in the UK and is the only UK charity fighting more than 200 types of cancer.  

 Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South West said, “We’re grateful to Tony for helping to underline the power of research in saving lives.

“Cancer Research UK has played a role in developing 8 of the world’s top 10 cancer drugs and we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

 “The truth is, Covid-19 has slowed us down. But we will never stop. One in two people will get cancer in their lifetime*, which is why we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.

 Picture caption – Rescue mission: Tony Hodges has vowed to help Cancer Research UK continue its vital mission.

The charity is expecting a staggering £160million drop in income this year, which is putting future breakthroughs at risk for people like the 35-year-old dad.

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