It’s just before Christmas 2019 and Thomas and I are talking together in a busy and rather noisy Hospice Café.

Thomas is 44 years old and sports an impressive full dark beard which, he tells me, has darkened considerably since his treatment.

We decide to begin back in the day when Thomas was a child. He explains that, for him, school was a nightmare.

'I experienced some very, very unpleasant times. I was bullied at school and have very few pleasant memories of my school days. This was followed by a terrible spell of work experience.'

Thomas suffered a series of mental health problems and, in 2005, he returned to Norfolk to live with his parents. His parents, who were very supportive, spent a lot of time with him during that dark time. Finally at the age of 31 he was diagnosed with autism. This diagnosis explained so much to both him and his family.

Thomas’s life changed - he moved to his own flat in Kings Lynn. He became the branch secretary for the National Autistic Society for West Norfolk and he found a job he loved, with James and Sons, who deal in coins and stamps.

'And I will go back there to work' he says confidently. 'I was so happy with my life as it was. I had found my place. But then, quite suddenly, I almost had my future taken away from me. I came very close to losing my life.

In October 2018, out of the blue I became terribly ill. One Monday I was feeling unwell and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, and by the Friday I was being blue lighted to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. After a barrage of tests, I was given a frightening diagnosis. I had stage 4 testicular cancer, and tumours on my lung, spleen and brain. There then followed seven weeks of intensive chemotherapy. It was a very rough ride. I believe that one can cope with what one knows, it’s harder to cope with the unknown. I was told by the oncologist that there was a 50/50 chance of eliminating the cancer. I was told the truth in an honest and straightforward way. The point was that I had a 50 per cent chance of surviving. I couldn’t return home to my flat which was two floors up and was very damp - the staircase was outside and in poor repair. I came to Tapping House as a day patient, where I was given physiotherapy with Louise and a variety of therapies. I remember that I was still feeling dreadfully ill and everything was a huge effort. But bit by bit I became stronger and more optimistic. On July 12th 2019 I had the diseased testicle removed at Addenbrookes.'

Thomas then goes on to talk about Tapping House.

'I didn’t come here to die, I came here to get my life back. The Hospice played a major role in my recovery. The people here are incredibly supportive. In the past I have felt extremely isolated. There is none of that feeling here. Everyone smiles, everyone is here to help and support you.'

Obviously, Thomas is still carefully monitored at the hospital in Cambridge, but so far all has been well and he is completely clear. He has been allocated a suitable flat and is looking forward to picking up his photographic hobby (his photographs are brilliant), and looking forward to going back to work.

Thank you, Thomas, for volunteering to give me this interview, which I know wasn’t easy.

Thomas, your story will give people hope and courage. Thank you.

By Susan Campbell.

To see Thomas’s work go to his aspiblog