A devastated family has vowed to keep the promise they made to a “lovable” son and friend who tragically passed away aged 20.
Tom Linton was diagnosed with melanoma, a severe form of skin cancer, in January 2020 when he was aged 19 and passed away mere months later in May, just after his 20th birthday.
However, the selfless son from County Durham, asked his family to grant him his final wish – to promise him that they would raise awareness of melanoma so that no other person would have to go through what he went through, Chronicle Live reports.
Now together, with the charity MelanomaMe and its founder Kerry Rafferty, his family is organizing Tom’s Fest to pay tribute to his life and raise awareness of melanoma.
His mother Amanda Linton, 48, detailed how Tom’s days were restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic but said he was just grateful to be home with her, his dad Steven, 50, and twin sister Hannah, 21.
She said: “It was hard for him because we were in full lockdown so he couldn’t see his girlfriend or friends but throughout it all, he never complained.
“He was so grateful to be at home with me and his dad and Hannah.
“Tom said: ‘Will you promise me you will go to Melanoma-Me’, and I promised I would.
“He then said: ‘Will you promise me that nobody will go through this’ and that was his final wish.”
The mum explained how Tom started feeling unwell a month before Christmas in 2019 and started losing weight.
But after suffering pain in his chest, Tom was rushed to A&E and developed blue spots on his body which concerned doctors.
Amanda said: “Tom did not look well and he started developing these little blue spots on his chest. The doctor said he had never seen anything like that in his life and sent him for a scan.”
The family said they were going backwards and forwards to the doctors but yet still had no answers as to what was wrong until Tom collapsed and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Amanda said: “Tom said he was going to go bowling with his friends but he didn’t look well. I had this horrible feeling that something was going to happen.
“Then I got a phone call from Tom. He said: ‘Mum I’m at the QE’, he had passed out.
“The doctors said they were going to scan him and I just knew something was not right. He was scanned again and that was when they found out there was cancer in his liver, his kidneys, and his lungs.
“They had to find the primary cause because it was all in organs and it had to have come from somewhere so they took a biopsy from the blue dots.
“I was rubbing his arm as he was in pain and I noticed a mole on his arm. The doctor said he thought it definitely came from that mole.”
Tom, who worked at Lloyds Bank and was studying at Northumbria University, had previously got a tattoo over the mole which he didn’t think was anything to worry about.
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.
Amanda said: “For his 18th birthday, he wanted this tattoo, I was a bit against it but he wanted a half sleeve.
“The mole was on the inner of his arm and the tattoo artist had said to Tom: ‘I would get that checked out.’
“Tom never mentioned it to me, he was 18 and was so over the moon with this tattoo, the mole was the least of his worries.
“When I asked him about the mole he said: ‘Mum, I really didn’t think it was anything as bad as this.’
“Cancer would be the last thing a young lad would think.
“Tom told me he had never really heard of melanoma, he didn’t know anything about it.”
Tom was diagnosed with melanoma in January 2020 but the cancer had already spread quickly and sadly his condition deteriorated.
His mum said: “When he got diagnosed, he was 19, he was angry, he was upset but I think Tom did think he was going to beat it and it was going to be okay.
“But it was a miracle he needed. Everything was against him, the treatment was making him really unwell.
“He lost his sight in one eye and the sight in his other eye wasn’t great and he was really frustrated.
“He just said: ‘I want to go home to die, I want to be with my mum and dad and Hannah’.
“In March, they didn’t think he was going to survive the weekend but we got six weeks and two days with him.”
Paying tribute to her son, Amanda said he “touched the hearts of everyone he met” and is still a huge part of people’s lives.
She said: “Tom was a very lovable child, he was very popular and had lots of friends at all three schools and sixth form.
“He was very compassionate, he didn’t like any nastiness, he wanted everybody to be treated the same.
“Nobody had anything bad to say about him. He touched the hearts of everyone he met.
“He is still a huge part of people’s lives. Tom’s wish was to be buried so he’s buried near where we live and lots of people and all his friends still go to see him.
“He was just somebody that everybody loved and once you had been with Tom, you felt so much better.”
Kerry Rafferty founded the charity MelanomaMe after being diagnosed with melanoma herself and now provides counseling to those affected by the disease along with a small team.
Together with Tom’s family, she is raising awareness of signs to look out for and is helping to organize Tom’s Fest.
She said: “Tom never went on the sunbeds and Amanda would lather him in suncream, they were always very careful.
“He never got sunburn, he’s never been on a sunbed, he did everything right.
“I don’t think people realize you can be born with melanoma it can be passed on from parents and that it’s not always caused by the sun.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking what his family is going through. His sister has to live life without her brother.
“But I feel really blessed I can help in some way. Young people are so hard to reach so if they see the article or a poster for the event it might prompt them to get something checked out. It can save a life.”
Amanda added: “Tom loved music, that was his life so he would be absolutely buzzing we’re holding this event.
“We want to keep Tom’s legacy alive but, most of all, keep the promise we made him.”
Tom’s Fest will be held on May 28 at Park View School, in Chester Le-Street, where Tom attended, and will feature bands, tribute acts, and food stalls.
Tickets for Tom’s Fest will cost £20 and are available at https://melanoma-me.org.uk/toms-fest.
The charity is also looking for sponsors for the event. Anyone interested should email: [email protected]
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.