Diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just months to live, a Bristol man is battling to get life-saving treatment that the NHS can’t provide.
“Chemo is rough, it’s really rough,” admits Tom Ashford, who is desperately fighting for this one chance to spend more precious time with his partner, Ryk Thomas.
“It does affect your whole body so you lose weight very quickly, which is the scariest thing.
“I just deal with it and I do not have people around me who are not singing from the same hymn sheet, I need to be around people who are positive. They say its terminal, but I say I’m fighting it and the treatment in Poland has given me hope.”
It was in March this year that the couple’s lives were turned upside down by the news that Tom had been diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer and the NHS could not provide anything other than palliative chemotherapy.
Devastated by the bleak outlook, they were given a glimmer of hope after meeting a woman who had faced an almost identical situation, but sought treatment in Poland, where she was operated on by Professor Polkowski, who successfully removed her advanced tumour.
Ryk and Tom hope that the innovative, but proven, operation could offer a precious lifeline and launched a fundraising campaign to cover the treatment that costs upwards of £20,000.
“I have had amazing support, it’s humbling,” says Tom, of Stapleton Road.
“I think we all go along in our normal lives feeling loved, but it is overwhelming the amount of support you get when you are running a campaign like this. Me and Ryk worked as landscape gardeners and one of our clients gave £2,500.”
The 56-year-old is undergoing chemotherapy in Bristol which has shrunk the tumour and he hopes to go for the operation in September.
“Within three days after coming home from a chemotherapy session, I just start shedding loads of weight. I use to be 83 kilos and now I hover around 70-73 kilos. I manage it by eating regularly and sleeping and going for walks twice a day,” he told Bristol247.
“The good news is the tumour is shrinking. I hate the chemo, I absolutely hate it, but we just go on day to day, hour to hour and I get bored and fed up, but do not allow it to get to me.”
Speaking of the day he received the diagnosis,Tom says: “I remember going for the endoscopy and I could tell she was freaked out by what she found.
“When I got the diagnosis, at first it sort of blew us apart. I actually went away to stay with a close friend for a few days and spent time coming to terms with it and then when I got back, we were able to turn things around. It’s been upsetting and frightening, but I have improved.”
Ryk has spoken of his love for his partner: “I’ve never loved anyone so much. My only regret is that I didn’t meet him earlier.
“This life-saving treatment will give us precious time to live, to laugh, to take our beloved dogs, Spencer and Pablo, for walks on the beach. More importantly, it will give us time to share the things we all take for granted until events like this take us down a path we don’t want to tread.”
Friend and neighbour Emily Daly is just one of the people getting behind the campaign and she has organised a family fun day and dog show in his honour which will take place on Sunday, August 27, at Oldbury Court Estate (Vassal’s Park) from 10am-4.30pm.
She is hoping to raise as much money as possible to help find a cure for Tom and help fund ongoing care.