This time last year, Tom Grant got the shock of his life when told his dad, Tony had cancer.
“My parents first new something was wrong when my dad started bleeding when he went to the toilet. But they didn’t tell us for months because they had all the pre-checks. They sat us down and told us, just around when I was supposed to be going back to finish University.”
Tom, 22, from Milton Keynes, is the eldest of three children alongside his brother Charlie, 20 and sister Shannon, 14. His dad Tony, 51, runs his own building company; Thomas Charles Grant, named after his sons. He was diagnosed with ‘colorectal cancer’ or cancer of the lower bowel last February.
As he was living away at University in Sheffield, Tom says he no idea his dad was so sick. But he believes younger sister Shannon already had her suspicions.
“She’d call or text me and ask me stuff, and she wasn’t really saying anything but she’d ask me questions and I’d just pass it off because I didn’t know. And I’d just say it’s fine, he must just be ill.
“I just never thought it’d be that.”
It wasn’t until 6 weeks later when Tom was asked to come home for the weekend by his Mum, Corrine, that he would hear the truth.
“They sat us all down and he told us, ‘I’ve got cancer and this is what’s going to happen’. He said no matter what happens, ‘I want you and Charlie both to promise me that you continue with university and do whatever it is you set out to do, because the worst thing for me would be if you’d stopped’.
“It was very emotional; you could see it in his eyes, he’s a very proud bloke, proper hard faced. And he wears his heart on his sleeve, but he’d never let you know if there was something wrong with him.”
Back to Uni
So after the weekend, Tom went straight back to university but decided not to tell anyone straight away.
“I tried to forget it. I went out a couple of times and got drunk, but I wasn’t there kind of, I was just spaced out.
“A couple of weeks later, it sounds weird, but I remember being out and getting talking to someone in the smoking area and just telling them. I didn’t even know them that well but I just had to tell someone. We were just chatting away and I think it was just because he was there and he was asking me if I was alright because obviously I looked like I wasn’t really there, so I just told him.”
“I then told my house mate Sam first. I’ve been best mates with him all through university and I could talk to him properly. I can really confide in him.
“Being a lad, and the person I am, I don’t really get upset that easily, I’m quite hard faced I suppose like my dad, and kind of shut it off. I am one of those people who just keep it all inside and find it hard to talk about stuff.”
“When I told Sam he could see I was getting upset, so he was really nice and caring. He ended up going out and buying dinner, buying loads of beers, and just playing Fifa all night. You just want to be treated like normal but obviously you want someone to ask you questions.”
Tom also felt he could talk to his next door neighbour at the time, Rachel who is also a radiography and oncology student.
“I wanted her advice because I knew what she did, but I could talk to her. We weren’t close at the time, but I felt she was an easy person to talk to.”
Road to recovery
“He had two courses of chemotherapy and two courses of radiotherapy. He had both treatments together over 5 weeks and he travelled to Mandeville near Oxford every day with my mum to receive them.”
Tom says it was tough that he wasn’t around but it also helped.
“I was doing final exams and projects so it was horrible that I wasn’t at home with him but I had to keep going because if I didn’t do my work, he’d find out and I’d get a bollocking either way.
“Thinking about it I wasn’t there to see the full effects, and to see him struggling and being knackered and not really eating, losing weight, and all the side effects. It’s your dad, and you’re literally helpless.
Tony finished his treatment at the end of May, but the battle was not over yet.
“He had to have on operation to remove the tumour. It was on the 1st August, my birthday. The actual procedure went well, but the aftermath didn’t.”
Tony had to be fitted with a colostomy bag and when his body started rejecting food, was fed through tubes. What was expected to be only a minor operation, cost him a month in hospital.
By this time Tom had moved home from University. But whilst his friends were free to celebrate their graduation, Tom was put in charge of the family whilst his Mum cared for Tony in hospital.
“I was pretty much left at home looking after Shannon and Charlie, looking after the little farm that we have, and the business, holding everything together.
“Shannon bless her, at one point she just thought he was never coming home from hospital. I’d find her some days just locked in the toilet crying her eyes out and there were times where I just wanted to cry too, but I couldn’t because I just had to be there for them. It was pretty dark times, it was pretty shit.”
Thankfully, in September of last year, Tony began to feel better. Tom says the whole experience has been an eye opener.
“It makes you feel so grateful for things, really brings you down to earth and makes you think about reality and what could happen. But at the same time, you just think life is too short and you just have to do what you want, and not live in regret.
“It’s made me more aware of cancer and the type of stuff involved. And even finding out about cancer, you know if there’s something wrong, just go get it checked out. There’s the cliché with blokes that if something’s wrong with you, you don’t go to the doctors. And that was literally what my dad was like, and he just went for some reason and obviously found out he had cancer.”
Tony has since had the all clear and now he and his family are adapting to his new life.
On the 27th May, Tom and Sam, along with friend Jake, will be running the Sheffield Half Marathon to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, who aided Tony and his family during their ordeal.
You can donate to them here http://www.justgiving.com/TomSamJake2012
Tom has since moved back to Sheffield and now works as a building surveyor. He is also now in a very happy relationship with Rachel, the next door neighbour radiography student.