In his heyday, Tom Long was a well-loved and familiar face on our TV screens.
Best known for his roles on The Dish, SeaChange and Two Hands, Tom suddenly disappeared from the public eye in 2012 after he collapsed on stage mid-way through a play at the Opera House.
He hasn’t been seen on screen or stage since, and the reason behind his sudden silence is a harrowing and heartbreaking story which, seven years later, he’s now bringing to the public’s attention.
Speaking on Channel 10’s The Sunday Project last night, Tom opened up about his journey through disease, love and confronting death.
A terminal diagnosis
Shortly before collapsing on stage, Tom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma – a type of blood cancer – and had started invasive treatment.
The former-actor says the prognosis was rough. “They said two to three years,” the actor told The Project.
“Essentially I thought, that’s it.”
But it wasn’t, and for the past seven years the actor has fought tooth and nail to beat, or at least delay, the deadly disease with bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy and even natural therapies.
And in the midst of it all, he found a new reason to fight.
The silver lining
Tom met his now wife Rebecca Fleming, following his diagnosis, and initially hesitated in pursing a relationship, not wanting to drag his future wife into a difficult and potentially heartbreaking future.
The two met through Tom’s neighbour who was a friend of Rebecca’s, and it seems that it was love at first sight.
Rebecca says when the couple first saw each other, their mutual friend noticed a ‘glance’ pass between the two, and sitting side by side on the couch last night, it was clear that the love still burns bright.
Just a few short months ago, the two tied the knot in an intimate ceremony in country Victoria, and now as Tom stares down a new battle, he has his loving family by his side.
A new battle ahead
Just a month before their wedding, Tom received devastating news; his doctors predicated the soon to be groom had between three to 12 months to live.
But there was one doctor that wasn’t giving up that easily; Professor Miles Prince recommended that Tom undertake an innovative new therapy in the US.
The treatment, known as Car T-Cell therapy is aimed at reworking the immune system by harvesting white blood cells and genetically modifying them.
Under the treatment, the new modified cells are reintroduced and target the cancerous cells, remaining in the blood to fight off any resurgence of the cancer in the future.
“It can cure leukemias when everything else has failed,” Miles tells The Sunday Project.
Tom and his family have put everything on the line for this one last chance at saving his life.
Tom will fly to Seattle on Thursday to start the treatment, and hopes if all goes well the treatment will soon be available for other Myeloma sufferers in Australia.
What is Multiple Myeloma?
Myeloma is a blood cancer that effects plasma -a type of white blood cell – in bone marrow according to the Cancer Council Victoria.
Plasma are usually responsible for making antibodies to fight infection and repair cells.
When cancerous, plasma production overtakes normal blood cell production in the bone marrow, and the production of normal antibodies is reduced.
The cancer leaves normal blood cell production difficult, and the immune system decimated.
In 2018 among just under 2000 incidents of Myeloma in Australia, almost half were fatal.
Despite the looming uncertainty, Tom says he holds on to one thing above all.
“I am very aware that I could be taken any time but I still, it’s the hope I think,” he says. “I go for the hope.”
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