This weekend sees Mothering Sunday, a time for us to be additionally thankful for the support which our mums provide for us.
I am fully aware that for some, this day might be filled with more sadness than joy. One young man I will be thinking about this Mother’s Day is eight year old Ethan Thomas, who recently lost his mum, Gemma, to the blood cancer Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) late last year, at the all-too-young age of 40.
Ethan’s father is Simon Thomas, the Sky Sports host and former BBC Blue Peter presenter, who since Gemma’s passing away last November has used social media to speak openly about memories of his wife, and his and Ethan’s bravery since their tragic loss.
Having lost my own mother to AML, my family and I have seen at first hand the devastating effects of this disease. Blood cancer is the UK’s third biggest cancer killer and one of the most brutal. The period of time from being diagnosed with AML to passing away can be just a couple of days, in our family we had only a few hours.
It is almost two years since I established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer. We have an increasing selection of MPs and members of the House of Lords in our number from a range of political parties represented in Westminster.
In January we launched our first report, which coincided with a parliamentary debate that I secured and led. The report makes a number of recommendations including that GPs should immediately request a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer.
These symptoms can be misunderstood easily. Back pain, tiredness, night sweats, weight loss and bruising can seem like you just have the flu – not a life-threatening illness.
Our Group will be meeting again in the next fortnight. When doing so the experience endured by Simon and Ethan, and the accounts shared with me by Crawley residents, will be at the forefront of my thoughts.
Henry Smith MP