Tom Sutton and friends took on the awesome challenge on New Year’s Day of rowing 100 kilometres down the River Thames, to raise money for King’s and spread an important message.
A brave thing for most people to take on, it’s particularly incredible for Tom as he is currently having daily radiotherapy treatment. Their challenge, named Thames 100: Never Give Up, has so far raised over £4,000.
In spring 2015 Tom had lifesaving surgery to remove a tumour from inside his spinal cord. The condition he had is rare and the surgery was very risky. Tom was told that he had a strong chance of ending up in a wheelchair or worse. Thankfully, the surgery was a great success.
‘The skill of the surgeons and the fantastic care I received at King’s enabled me to make a miraculous recovery,’ says Tom. ‘Within a month or so I’d completed my first fundraising event for King’s.’
However, despite this initial success, surgeons were unable to remove all of the tumour and in November 2016 Tom was told that he’d need a long course of radiotherapy over Christmas and the New Year, stretching into February 2017.
Tom decided that he wanted to do something special to support the hospital that saved his life and started planning the 100-kilometre row. Not only this, but he has an inspiring message of hope to share with other cancer sufferers.
‘I want to show that you can still be active and still do something useful – even after spinal surgery, even when you have cancer,’ explains Tom. ‘I hope that this will also help people going through similar experiences to me.
‘If I’d known when I was going through it that people were still able to do so much after surgery, it would have really helped me recover. This is why the challenge is called: Thames 100: Never Give Up.’
Against the odds
Tom was supported by friends and family for the challenge, which went on over two days and finished on New Year’s Day at Tower Bridge. The team consisted of Tom and Toby Gould as the rowers, with Becs Boyce as the all-important cox. They were helped by rowing legend, John Graham, and Sunbury Skiff and Punting Club, who managed the event and provided support to the crew.
‘We didn’t quite know if we were going to make it,’ says Tom. ‘The first day had a great atmosphere with lots of supporters seeing us off and cheering, and some lovely picturesque views. The second day was more heads-down-and-row. The final stretch was the hardest as it was against the tide, it was really tough.’
The determined team completed the challenge despite terrible weather conditions of pouring rain. They celebrated afterwards with family and friends at a party held nearby the finishing line.
The crew at the end – Toby Gould, Becs Boyce and Tom.
‘It feels amazing, I can’t quite believe we managed to do it,’ says Tom. ‘Because of the radiotherapy I’ve been having at the same time, I didn’t know what affect it would have on me. But that’s the point of it, to show that you don’t have to be a victim.’
Tom’s final radiotherapy session is on 6 February 2017. His moving message, which can be seen on his Facebook page, remains powerful and strong – never give up!
If you’d like to show your support of Tom and his incredible achievement, please visit his fundraising page to donate.
You can take on any challenge, big or small, to fundraise for any part of King’s, just like Tom did. Find out more about ways you can get involved.