Tom Bowdidge Foundation’s £50,000 gift to cancer appeal

Tom Bowdidge

Caption: Tom Bowdidge, aged 16, pictured on holiday in California

2 November 2017

The parents of inspirational teenager Tom Bowdidge will next week visit Colchester General Hospital to present a £50,000 cheque to the Cancer Centre Campaign.

The money will be used for a two-chair chemotherapy bay for teenage cancer patients in the Cancer and Wellbeing Centre that the appeal will fund.

Nikki and Richard Bowdidge, of Firmins Court, West Bergholt, will on Tuesday hand over a giant cheque for £50,000 on behalf of the Tom Bowdidge Foundation to Caroline Bates, Head of Charity and Fundraising at Colchester Hospitals Charity (CoHoC) which is running the Cancer Centre Campaign.

They and their daughter Emma set up the Foundation to support teenagers and young adults with cancer following the death of their son Tom, aged 19, in October 2013 from a desmoplastic small round cell tumour and extensive peritoneal disease.

In the 13 months between his diagnosis and death, Tom, who had been at sixth-form at Colchester Royal Grammar School, helped to raise £178,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Nikki said: “The Tom Bowdidge Foundation is delighted to work with Colchester Hospital and to continue our investment there in teenage and young adult cancer facilities.

“Each day in the UK, about seven young people aged 13 to 24 are diagnosed with cancer. My son was one of them so I know only too well how their treatment can be complicated and intense.

“Many teenagers and young people are facing rare and aggressive cancers with long-term side effects. I watched my son and his fellow patients face unique social, emotional and physical difficulties.

“Their education was interrupted. They felt isolated from friends as they no longer felt they had anything in common and the latter did not know how to cope with their friend’s diagnosis. Their families were left struggling to cope.

“These complex issues mean they need specialist care and support and an environment tailored to their needs. However, teenagers and young adults with cancer often get lost in a health care system that simply doesn’t recognise their physical and emotional needs.

“Therefore, we wanted to ensure that there is an age-appropriate space provided in the Colchester Cancer Centre for young people with cancer.”

The cheque will be presented in the Young Adults Clinic Room, which the couple officially opened in May. The room is on the Mary Barron Suite and used by young patients with cancer when they come to the hospital as outpatients for chemotherapy. The Foundation paid for a treatment chair, four chairs for family members, a television, wall art and a blind.

Chemotherapy services at Colchester General Hospital are currently provided in a temporary building, which is cramped and very hot in summer. They will transfer to the Cancer and Wellbeing Centre, which will be built on a new floor above the Radiotherapy Centre which opened in 2014.

Mrs Bates: “We are humbled by this amazingly generous donation, especially when you consider that the Tom Bowdidge Foundation has already invested £25,000 in facilities here for teenagers and young adults with cancer. In our plans for the centre, we include facilities within its Chemotherapy Day Unit that will enable us to treat teenage patients as teenagers first and not as adult cancer patients.

“We will set aside an area separate from the other adult chemotherapy chairs and make it teenage-friendly by including wifi facilities, a laptop computer, a DVD player, soft furnishings and bespoke furniture. We aim to make this area private, comfortable, informal and with an upbeat atmosphere.”

She added that the majority of young people from north east Essex with cancer are treated in specialist units, like Tom who had chemotherapy at University College Hospital, London, but there are times when they need emergency drug treatment or prefer to be treated locally.

Tom had just finished his A-levels when he was diagnosed and was planning to study classical civilisation at the University of Roehampton. However, after his diagnosis, his ambition was to set up his own charity rather than go to university.

He was diagnosed after being sent to the Emergency Assessment Unit at Colchester General Hospital and also spent time as an inpatient on the cancer wards at Essex County Hospital, when his father used to sleep on the floor to be with him.

In the three years since it was founded, the Tom Bowdidge Foundation has raised more than £600,000.

The Cancer Centre Campaign is led by CoHoC. The £50,000 donation from the Tom Bowdidge Foundation means it has reached £2,669,390 of its £3.25m target.