WHEN The Wanted singer Tom Parker was told he had a terminal, inoperable brain tumour his world imploded.
Potentially, he faced just 18 months with his wife, Kelsey, their toddler daughter and the baby son who was due in just a few weeks’ time.
The star was told he had a gradefour glioblastoma and would have to undergo intensive treatment in a bid to prolong his life.
But astonishingly, after six rounds of chemotherapy and 30 radiotherapy sessions, his outlook is considerably more positive.
In fact, he is now aiming to defy the odds and be cancer-free in five months’ time. The Bolton-born lad, 33 — who has a daughter Aurelia, two, and son Bodhi, 11 months, with Kelsey — said: “You’ll always be classed as terminal.
“They give you 12 to 18 months of survival. But that’s the general statistics. Everyone we’ve spoken to has been way, way beyond that.
“Now, we’re aiming to be cancer free by March. That’s the aim. This disease is always there. You might have residual cells but just not active. So, we’ll just carry on, just crack on and see where we get to.”
It’s a stark change in fortune for the young star — married to Kelsey for three years and together more than ten.
It is nearly 12 months to the day that he publicly shared the life-changing news that he had the rare condition, the most aggressive tumour that can form in the brain.
At all points during his treatment both he and Kelsey have refused to ask for a specific prognosis, labelling it “pointless”.
But Tom admits that at times he felt like packing in the treatment — given some of the more widely- available pessimistic predictions.
For six weeks he was having to travel daily from their family home in Kent to Guy’s Hospital in London for gruelling radiation sessions — only getting a respite at weekends.
At one point his weight dropped by a third, to just 7st 7lb. He said: “Those were the darkest days of my life. Going up there and lying under those radiation machines were awful. It’s awful. It’s unnerving.
“You’re thinking, ‘Is this doing any good? Is this making a difference? Is there any point in me doing this if I’m going to die? I’m not putting myself through this’.
'DARKEST DAYS OF MY LIFE'
He added: “And chemo was brutal. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.” Kelsey said: “All he kept saying was, ‘I’m scared’. But I said, ‘I know you’re scared, but we’re going to get through this’.”
He hated the treatment so much that he says he wouldn’t have any more, although Kelsey quickly says she’d make him if it was a matter of life and death.
He said: “I don’t think I would have any more, I don’t know if I could put my body through it. If it was a choice. Definitely not.”
In a bid to raise awareness of the condition, Tom and Kelsey allowed cameras to follow his journey over the last year for new Channel 4 documentary Tom Parker: Inside My Head, which airs this Sunday.
In it, viewers are given a glimpse into Kelsey’s stoic nature — often cracking jokes and trying to lift Tom’s spirits when all looks bleak.
Kelsey said: “If I was just around Tom going, ‘This is so sad and horrible’, he wouldn’t heal. I’m always saying, ‘What are we doing next? What are you drinking? What are you eating?’ It’s a regime.
“You have to make what you will of the situation. But you have to get through it. If I’d crumbled in the beginning we wouldn’t be where we were now.”
In one touching point in the documentary, Tom refers to her as his guardian angel and they remind each other of their wedding vows: in sickness and health.
Kelsey, 31, adds with a laugh: “I wish it was like when we were 70! I would’ve been alright then. But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”
Thankfully, the extensive treatment has seemed to do the trick, at least for now, with the cameras capturing the moment consultants told Tom and Kelsey that the tumour has stopped growing, and has in fact shrunk.
To make a whirlwind few weeks even more difficult, just two weeks after Tom was told of his terminal condition Kelsey gave birth to Bodhi, who arrived early.
Tom said: “It was literally two weeks into my treatment and then she went into labour. She said, ‘I don’t feel right. I said, ‘Don’t! Not now, I can’t even think, I can’t even stand up straight!’ She got out of bed and her waters broke. I was like, ‘You’re f*****g joking’.”
'THIS DISEASE IS ALWAYS THERE'
While Bodhi is too young to grasp the situation at home, daughter Aurelia knew something was wrong from the day Tom was told.
Kelsey said: “We’ve always been really honest with them, and Aurelia is so emotionally intelligent.
“When Tom got diagnosed, we came back from Kings [College Hospital], and it was me, Tom and my best friend Kelsey, and we didn’t speak about it, we didn’t come in and cry.
“But she was running around the table being rude. She knew there was a vibe, she can just pick up on it. So, what we just say to her is, ‘Daddy takes medicine to get better’.
“Now she’s obsessed with, ‘Daddy, are you going to work? Daddy, are you going to sing Glad You Came?”
There’s plenty of time for Aurelia, and Bodhi, to see their dad perform the song — The Wanted’s second No1 and one of their ten Top ten singles.
Going up there and lying under those radiation machines were awful. It’s awful. It’s unnerving
The moving programme culminates with Tom arranging, and performing at, a star-studded charity concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall to raise awareness of brain tumours.
The gig, just two and a half weeks ago, saw the band reunite on stage for the first time in seven years to perform a three-song set, with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Liam Payne and McFly supporting them.
And in a sign he’s going nowhere fast, Tom and his bandmates — Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness and Nathan Sykes — will embark on a UK tour next year.
Now, Tom’s priority is getting fit for those shows. That will be a challenge, given he has struggled with limited mobility since his diagnosis.
He said: “It’s just building stamina. Even after doing three songs for Stand Up To Cancer, I was pretty knackered. We’ve just bought a new house and it’s got a garage next door, so I’m going to stick a gym in there and keep active.”
One of the aims of the programme is to not only shine a light on the condition, but to show how important it is that research into it receives more funding.
As things stand, patients have a ten per cent chance of surviving five years after their diagnosis. The average lifespan is 14 to 16 months.
Tom admits in the episode that he decided to make the most of private healthcare, so he could try a number of different treatments to give himself the best shot.
He said: “That’s the bad part of it. If you’ve not got money, you’ve not got the best healthcare. That’s sad.
“More and more young people are experiencing this disease, you know, and that’s an issue that needs looking at. This affects a lot of young people.”
Kelsey added: “The standard of care hasn’t been changed in 30 years.”
- Tom Parker: Inside My Head is on Channel 4 on Sunday at 9pm. Inside My Head – The Concert follows at 10.30pm on 4Music. To donate to Stand Up To Cancer, go to channel4.com/SU2C. 100% of your donation goes to Cancer Research UK in support of SU2C.
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