Family of Tom Bowdidge to open cancer facilities at hospital

Tom Bowdidge

Caption:Tom Bowdidge. Please note that Tom’s family have not previously released this photo. It shows Tom speaking to 6,000 people at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2013 at a concert in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

17 May 2017

A ceremony will be held next week (23 May) to mark the official opening of facilities funded by a charity set up in memory of an inspirational Colchester teenager.

All three rooms are the first at Colchester General Hospital to be designated for use exclusively by teenagers and young adults (TYA) with cancer.

They have been paid for by the Tom Bowdidge Foundation, a charity which was established by the parents and sister of a West Bergholt teenager who died from a desmoplastic small round cell tumour and extensive peritoneal disease in October 2013, aged 19.

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

The Tom Bowdidge Foundation was created on 28 February 2014, which would have been Tom’s 20th birthday, to support teenagers and young people with cancer. It has invested £25,000 in three separate facilities at Colchester General Hospital:

Young Adults Quiet Space, Outpatient Department: This is a room for use by teenagers and young adults with cancer, their family and siblings, when they come to hospital for an outpatient appointment, and also where health professionals can talk to patients. It has been designed to be a calm and relaxing environment. The Tom Bowdidge Foundation has paid for the complete redecoration of the room including wall art, new lighting, new flooring and new furniture.

TYA en suite single room, West Bergholt Ward (an oncology/haematology ward): The Foundation has funded new lighting, wall art, a television, a window blind, and a put-up bed so that a parent can stay in hospital overnight.

Young Adults Clinic Room: This room is on the Mary Barron Suite, and is used by young patients with cancer when they come to the hospital as outpatients for chemotherapy. In addition, bloods are taken there and health professionals use it to talk to patients and their families. The Foundation has paid for a treatment chair, four chairs for family members, a television, wall art and a blind.

Tom’s mother Nikki gave up her teaching job at Heathlands Primary School, West Bergholt, to be become Chief Executive of the charity that bears her son’s name.

She lives with her husband Richard, and their daughter, Emma, 25, in Firmins Court, West Bergholt, both of whom will join her and guests on Wednesday (23rd) to officially open the facilities paid for by the Tom Bowdidge Foundation. Among the guests will be the Deputy Mayor of Colchester, Cllr Gerard Oxford, who will become Mayor the next day.

Mrs Bowdidge said: “We are delighted to have been able to create these wonderful rooms at Colchester General Hospital.

“This was very much at the heart of Tom’s vision, to improve facilities locally that are more age appropriate in their design. We hope these rooms will now make a young cancer patient’s treatment more comfortable and private.”

Lea Kirton, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Teenagers & Young Adults with Cancer, said: “It’s wonderful that we at Colchester General Hospital are now able to support the best possible care in an appropriate environment for our young people with cancer.

“A young patient told me recently that moving into our newly decorated designated room on West Bergholt Ward had ‘brightened’ up her day and made her smile. She has found the mood lighting relaxing and it has helped her to sleep.”

Tom, who had been a pupil at the primary school where his mother taught, 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.

Tom 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.

Most of his treatment took place at University College Hospital, London, consisting of several lengthy bouts of chemotherapy. Tom returned home whenever he could.

In the three years since it was founded, the Tom Bowdidge Foundation has raised over £500,000.