Inspirational Wellesbourne cancer survivor helps launch Star Awards - The Leamington Observer

Inspirational Wellesbourne cancer survivor helps launch Star Awards

AN INSPIRATIONAL man from Wellesbourne who was diagnosed with cancer twice as a teenager has been chosen to launch a national awards scheme for young people.

Thomas Ashley was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2015 and underwent months of gruelling chemotherapy treatment while studying for his GCSEs.

After meeting Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, Tom was inspired to complete his A-levels and try out for drama school. But when the cancer returned just two years later, Thomas found himself in a spiral of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Now 24 and fully on the road to recovery, Tom has opened up about his mental health struggles because he wants to inspire others to keep going when all hope is lost.

That’s why he’s thrown his support behind the Cancer Research UK Stars Awards, which recognises the courage of children and young people who have faced cancer.

Every child nominated receives the accolade, which is backed by a host of famous faces, including celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, TV personality Dr Ranj and children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.

There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. The awards are open to all children under 18 who live in the UK and have been treated for the disease within the past five years.

Tom, a former pupil at Princethorpe College in Rugby, said: “The Star Awards are special. To know there are people out there who do care – you start to understand that it’s a lot more than just an award. There are people backing you who will be in your corner no matter what.”

Tom’s ordeal began in January 2015 when he began to feel ill with suspected tonsilitis.

But after a week of tests, Tom received a phone call to say he needed to go to Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital straightaway. He underwent further tests before being told the devastating news he had cancer.

Within just a few days, Tom was moved to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and had bone marrow taken from his back before starting months of intensive chemotherapy.

Tom’s proud parents Lucy and James encouraged him to ring the end of treatment bell after a follow up hospital appointment confirmed he was in remission. But a routine bone marrow check-up in March 2017, saw his worst fears realised. Tom’s cancer was back.

He was admitted to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he underwent the strongest chemotherapy treatment as well as a stem cell transplant, using cells donated by his elder sister Eve.

During treatment Tom received a get-well video message from Mark Hamill who he’d met as part of a charity ‘Make a Wish’ two years earlier. Inspired by the acting icon, Tom secured a place at a drama school in London after his A-levels. But it wasn’t long before his mental health began to spiral.

On New Year’s Eve in 2020/21, Tom hit an all-time low and thought about taking his own life. Thankfully, after a phone call to the police, they were able to help him.

Isolating throughout Covid didn’t help his situation but Tom realised he had to do something to help himself and so he started to write things down. He now records his experiences, thoughts and feelings in a blog as well as on Instagram and YouTube in the hope he can help and inspire other people struggling with mental health issues.

To nominate a star visit


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