Father’s final wish to see son married

TIME is a precious commodity for cancer sufferer Paul Cosson.

The 55-year-old football coach, who has worked with the likes of rising Ipswich Town star Connor Wickham among others, has been told he has terminal cancer. Now all he wants to do is raise enough money to pay for the drug which could help him live long enough to see his son married.

The coach noticed the early signs that something was wrong in May last year. He was referred by his GP to Ipswich Hospital, where doctors found he had a blockage in his lower bowel. In October he had a major operation to remove a 14in section of bowel which was affected by the tumour, leaving him with an ileostomy.

But he was then given the devastating news that he had terminal bowel cancer, which had spread to his liver.

Paul, of Jackdaw Close, Stowmarket, said: “It was a massive shock. They said right from the start they could contain it but they couldn’t cure it. You just end up thinking ‘how long have I got?’ And even when they tell you, you worry whether you’re really going to have that long.

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“But I’ve always been quite positive in what I do – it’s no good curling up in the corner and letting it happen. You’ve got to carry on doing the things you want to do.”

Doctors told Paul the prognosis was poor – he would most likely have between 18 months and four years – but that is a time frame he is determined to beat.

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Wife Julie, 43, who married Paul in a beachside ceremony in Mexico in 2006, said: “In the beginning, there were a lot of tears but we just had to tell ourselves to stop it and carry on.

“Four years is the longest the doctor has seen someone survive, and Paul said to me ‘I’m going too beat him’. That’s his attitude. He just wants to be alive to see his son get married.”

Despite two rounds of intensive chemotherapy over the past year, which have left Paul unable to work and suffering sickness, numbness in his fingertips and changes in his taste buds, the cancer has continued to spread through the active 55-year-old’s body.

Doctors have now told him a more extreme form of chemotherapy, known as Cetuximab, could be his only hope to stay alive long enough to see his 30-year-old son Dale get married.

Dale, who is profoundly deaf, is marrying wedding dress designer Elizabeth in a church ceremony in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire, on May 28 next year. But funding for the drug that could help Paul get to the wedding is not readily available and must be approved by a panel of specialists which meets each month, and Paul is far from certain of being granted money for the drug.

Julie, who works on the production line for Bosch, has therefore launched the “Paul Cosson: Fight for Life” campaign to raise the �20,000 needed to pay for the drug privately.

Paul said: “I feel a bit awkward because I have never asked anyone for anything. You just don’t think something like this could happen in your life, but it could happen to anyone.

“I would appreciate anything that anybody could do that would prolong my life so I could see my son get married and carry on a bit longer after that. If people could donate towards that, to help make that happen for me, I would be eternally grateful.”

Julie has already embarked on her fundraising efforts, organising an evening of entertainment next week at Old Newton sports and social club, in Stowmarket, and has worked hard to attract some fantastic prizes including a helicopter ride and three-course meal.

She has also enlisted 11 of her friends, both men and women, to star in a Calendar Girls-style shoot at the club to make calendars which will then be sold to raise funds.

The couple’s family, friends and wider community are drawing together to support them, with Julie’s 73-year-old mother, who has had cancer herself, holding a coffee morning as part of the effort.

Julie said: “We can’t get over the generosity of some people already. But if we don’t get this funding, Paul’s life is going to be a lot shorter.”

Paul, who has another son, Lee, 32, was an engineer at BSP Engineering before being made redundant and moving to work at a food factory in Bungay. But he has also been a part-time coach for Ipswich Town Football Academy for the past 12 years and has seen several famous faces make their way through the ranks, including Sunderland striker Darren Bent, whom he coached at about age 14, as well as midfielders Matt Bloomfield and Darren Ambrose and new star protege Connor Wickham.

If Paul’s funding is not approved at the next monthly meeting of the exceptional funding panel there are other options including the recent �50million cancer drugs fund announced by the Government. But the couple are reluctant to wait for the application to go through the drawn-out process, when time is of the essence.

An NHS Suffolk spokeswoman said: “We would not comment on any individual patient’s case. However, in cases such as this, a patient’s clinician would support an application for exceptional funding. A clinical review is carried out and that then goes to a panel to make a decision.”

The couple paid tribute to the doctors and nurses who have cared for them. Paul said: “It is not the doctor’s fault – he has been brilliant. The nurses and the doctors have all been absolutely fantastic. I’d like to thank the staff at Somersham Ward and Stowmarket Community Health Centre. The doctor has put in for funding before and got it approved, but the way things are at the moment on finances, he didn’t know whether we would get it this time. He said he has put in a request for a 17-year-old and they have turned it down, and for an 80-year-old and he’s got it.”

But he added: “I suppose you could say it is one of my last wishes – to see my son married and a bit more beyond. I just want to live as long as I can, like anybody else does.”

n To donate to the Paul Cosson: Fight for Life campaign, call Paul on 07810 083829 or e-mail cosso123@hotmail.co.uk, or send cheques care of the East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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