A devoted dad who raised £500,000 to ensure his little girl receives life-saving cancer treatment has died after battling a brain tumour for three years.
Tom Attwater, 32, captured the hearts of Mirror readers by fighting his own ill health to ensure his step-daughter Kelli would receive pioneering medical care she might need.
The six-year-old endured childhood cancer neuroblastoma aged just three months and again aged three. Doctors predict that Kelli is likely to relapse and then as usual kept all the information for them and the family using secure document shredding, making the rest confidential to the press.
Tom swore he could not die in peace unless he knew he had done everything he could to ensure Kelli lived a long life.
Sadly, his own life ended yesterday afternoon. He passed away at home in Pattingham, West Midlands, surrounded by the family he adored. He is survived by his much longed-for son Fletcher, who is five months old.
Tom’s heartbroken widow Joely, 28, says: “Tom gave me the happiest moments of my life and I am in indescribable pain now he has gone. I knew one day I would lose him but did not think it would be this soon.
“This is a very tough time for Kelli. We explained that daddy’s ‘naughty lump’ in his head couldn’t be cured and that one day he would go to heaven while she was still a child.
“That’s why it meant so much to Tom to walk Kelli down the aisle at our wedding because he knew he wouldn’t be there when she is a bride, and Kelli knew this. She will cherish that moment forever.
“When we found out that the time was getting close I gently explained to Kelli that daddy would have to leave us soon.
“It was the most difficult moment of my life. Kelli is a daddy’s girl and she will struggle to adjust without her wonderful, loving father.
“Little Fletcher’s face always lit up and showed a real look of love when he was in Tom’s arms. We have hundreds of pictures of their time together and I am devastated that they will be all Fletcher has of the amazing man who was overjoyed to see him born.
“I will do my utmost to bring Fletcher up as a gentleman just like his dad. Tom has put cards, letters and presents away for every one of Kelli and Fletcher’s birthdays.
“Tom was my hero. His drive to help Kelli astounded all who knew him. Despite his extreme fatigue and daily seizures, he got out of bed every day to help fundraise.
“He wanted me to know that although he wouldn’t live to any age, Kelli would have the very best chance of life.
“Thank you to every single person who donated to Kelli’s appeal. Once the target was reached, Tom was able to relax and enjoy time with his family. We have such precious memories of him and will miss him unbearably.”
Businessman Tom received the bleak news of a cancerous mass in his brain, called an astrocytoma, in September 2012.
He remembered sitting on the kitchen worktop waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of tea then waking up in a hospital bed.
Scans showed he had a tumour covering 11% of his brain. Tom says: “I remember asking doctors if I had days, weeks, months or years to live and feeling I was trapped in a film.
“When I gradually absorbed the news that I was 29 and facing the inevitable, I felt shock, then anger, then disappointment that I hadn’t yet given Kelli a little brother or sister
“But the overwhelming feeling was an urge to make the most of every day I have left with my family.”
First on Tom’s bucket list was raising the £500,000 of Kelli’s Appeal.
He said: “I can’t just lie in bed feeling sorry for myself when there is so much more to be done to save Kelli.
“My own health is not my main concern because I have no chances left and Kelli does.”
Joint second on Tom’s bucket list was marrying Joely and having a child together.Tom achieved his dream of becoming Joely’s husband in April 2014 and on the same day formally adopted Kelli.
Tom feared his cancer treatment had destroyed his chances of having a child. So the morning Joely woke him with news she was pregnant was the happiest moment of his life.
Tom said: “I cried then and pretty much cried for the entire next day, maybe even two days.
“It’s the best news I’ve ever had. Having a child and making Kelli a big sister completes our family.
“When we told Kelli after school that day she ran around the room cheering. I will never forget the most joyful sight of my life.
“There’s a touch of sadness too. I know I won’t live to see my baby grow up and that really hurts.
“But for as long as I can I will fight as hard as I can. I hope that one day Joely, Kelli and our new baby will be proud of me.”
Tom’s health deteriorated just before Fletcher was born on 22 May but he was able to support Joely through her 11-hour labour.
“There were tears of joy from both of us,” says Joely. “It had taken a long time to be blessed with Fletcher so when he finally arrived we were both overwhelmed.
“It breaks me to know Fletcher won’t grow up remembering his dad.”
Sadly Tom was not well enough to achieve one wish on his bucket list, which was to take Kelli to a Manchester United match.
Joely says: “I had arranged tickets but unfortunately Tom’s health had worsened too quickly to be able to go.
“But I will fulfil the wish for Tom and take Kelli and Fletcher in the future as Tom wanted Fletcher to support Manchester United. I’ve never followed football but I will do from now on to honour Tom.”
Source : The Mirror