Hungry Boy Thom's bowel cancer battle
TELEVISION personality Thom Hunt said he felt invincible at 27 years old – until he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Thom, one of Channel 4's Three Hungry Boys, needed emergency surgery to remove part of his colon and months of intensive drug treatment.
The 29 year old, of St Jude's, described his battle against the disease to raise awareness.
He is tackling multiple challenges for Macmillan Cancer Support and championing a new walking event in Plymouth.
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Thom said: "I was naive. At 27 you feel invincible. I knew virtually nothing about cancer.
"It's a sobering thing to be diagnosed and operated on within a couple of hours. They told me first thing in the morning and I was in surgery by lunch time.
"I consider myself very fortunate. As of my last scan I'm cancer free, but I'm also very aware that I have to get through five years before I can breathe easy."
Thom urged others to get symptoms checked early. His diagnosis came about six months after he first visited a GP, partly as it is unusual for someone so young and healthy to develop bowel cancer.
He said: "For whatever reason men in particular don't go and see the doctor, especially if it's something intimate.
"But the faster it gets diagnosed, the better your chances of survival. It's as simple as that. Looking back, I probably had symptoms for the better part of a year."
Thom reached crisis point came shortly after filming the first series of Three Hungry Boys, which is backed by River Cottage founder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, in early 2010.
The programme sees the trio, all former Plymouth University students, fish, forage and hunt their way around the UK.
"When away I was eating a lot of weird and wonderful things," said Thom. "I was getting a lot of cramps and gastric difficulties but I just thought I'd picked something up.
"After filming I went fishing with some friends in Ireland. When I got back I got excruciating pains in my gut. I felt like I was being stabbed.
"If it had happened 48 hours previously, I would have been in the middle of nowhere."
He was rushed to Derriford Hospital. The emergency admission came the same day he was due to see a consultant about his condition.
Thom's bowel had perforated. He underwent a four-hour operation which involved removing 18 inches of colon and the tumour, which he describes as the size of a small plum.
Thom said he was also lucky to be under the care of Derriford consultant Mark Coleman.
After surgery he underwent six months of chemotherapy, and received support from Macmillan's Mustard Tree Centre, based at Derriford Hospital.
He said the "absolutely brilliant" centre has inspired him to raise funds for the charity. Mustard Tree provided him with information, advice, reflexology, help with nutrition, moral support and cups of tea before chemo sessions.
He said: "It's only in the last six to eight months I've started to feel like me again. After being so fit and active beforehand, it's critical I get back in to challenging myself again."
He said the experience has changed his life and made him determined to help others fighting cancer. He is also launched a new business teaching others outdoor skills.
Last year, Thom, the other two Hungry Boys Tim Cresswell and Trevor Brinkman, and a River Cottage team raised £20,000 for Macmillan through a cricket match at Fleet Cricket Club.
This year Thom and friends intend tackling Plymouth Half Marathon, the Three Peaks Challenge and the Bristol triathlon for the charity.
He is also supporting the new Mustard Tree Celebration walk in Central Park on Father's Day, June 17, from 11am.
Sian Harris, Macmillan Cancer Support local fundraiser, said: "We are so grateful for Thom's support.
"Macmillan has invested huge amounts into cancer support and care in Plymouth, but we rely on voluntary donations. We hope that people will join Thom on the walk and enjoy the cooking demonstration. Everyone that takes part will be helping local people affected by cancer."
The celebration will include a series of one-mile walks.
Thom will lead one of the strolls as well as giving a cooking demonstration using ingredients foraged locally.
The events costs £10 for adults to enter, which includes a t-shirt, entertainment, food and refreshments.
Register at www.macmillan.org.uk/walking or by calling 0300 1000 200.
Thom said anyone who would like details of the event or to talk about his experiences can contact him through twitter at @3hungryboysthom