A BRAVE Llanbradach man said he has been inspired in his fight against cancer after friends and family rallied around, raising £8,000 for him in just over two weeks.
Matthew Jenkins, 35, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma last July and has endured eight bouts of chemotherapy, lost four stone and suffered problems with his bowel and bladder.
But, as he gears up for a more intense bout of chemotherapy, which has a 75 per cent chance of curing the tumour that was originally 23 centimetres, he said: “I have to get better now as I owe everyone a pint.”
Mr Jenkins, who is married to Amanda, 30 and has a 20 month-old baby Ruby, first realised something was wrong when he was unable to eat much food and began throwing up after large meals.
He had been feeling constantly tired for some time before, but had put that down to his shift patterns at Castle Dairies, Caerphilly.
But, in five weeks from last April, he lost two stone, leading him to visit his doctor. A number of tests followed and in July it was confirmed he had a 23 centimetre non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
He described it as “a huge shock”, with his family describing how they had believed the mass was a hernia. Dad Jeff said: “We all cried, we didn’t give it a thought. He was too young and had no health problems.”
Mr Jenkins described how the lymphoma “grew really fast” perforating his bowel and creating a hole in his urinary tract. He said: “Doctors told me how it was one of the most complicated cases they’d seen. It began attacking my organs, I needed a blood transfusion, had kidney failure and was in intensive care a couple of times.”
He described how the cancer had to be “put on the back burner” as doctors treated the other problems, such as fitting him with colostomy and ileostomy bags and a fistula where there was a hole in his urinary tract.
Mr Jenkins’ weight also plummeted and from 12 and a half stone, he now weighs eight and a half stone.
But, he was able to undergo eight sessions of chemotherapy and the lymphoma has now been shrunk to six centimetres and doctors aren’t sure if it is even still active.
He is due to go into hospital at the start of May, when he will have one final aggressive dose of chemotherapy. Mr Jenkins must then stay in for a month of stem cell treatment to replace the bone marrow it will kill.
“Doctors said I was being brave but I just see it I have cancer and it’s what needs to be done,” Mr Jenkins said. “I’ve been overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and want to thank them. I’ll hopefully be able to use the money for a family holiday or to do something that makes me feel normal again.”
Pal launched fundraising drive
The amazing fund-raising drive was launched by family friend Clare Hopkins, who bumped into Mr Jenkins by chance at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.
He was a former school-friend of her husband Gavin and she said: “We were astonished as he had kept it quiet. We knew he had cancer, but didn’t know the extent he had changed. We couldn’t sleep as we wanted to do something. At first, we thought about a teddy bear for the baby and a pair of pyjamas for him, but it just grew from there.”
Hundreds of businesses donated raffle prizes and money, while the whole community got involved in fundraising.
A poker night raised £300, a two-hour zumbathon £1,300, fancy dress football match £1,500 and raffle made £1,800. There was also a special fundraising evening, where tickets sold out because of the popularity of the former Lewis Boys School pupil.
Mrs Hopkins said locals tried to keep the fundraising secret from Mr Jenkins at first as “he is stubborn”, but said “everything escalated” and called the total “amazing”.