But Caroline Mousdale is determined to honour her brave selfless son Bradley Coombes who died aged just 23 on February 19 after being told he had stage four cancer in December 2019 after a series of misdiagnoses.
Caroline, 53, of Waterlooville, has called for GPs and medical professionals not to dismiss possible symptoms of bowel cancer just because a person is young – with her believing her football fanatic and previously healthy son could still be alive if they had investigated before it was too late.
Before his diagnosis, Bradley, son of Richard Coombes, had suffered two years of stomach complaints but was repeatedly told it was a grumbling appendix or irritable bowel syndrome.
However, In October 2019 the symptoms significantly worsened resulting in a blood test which identified an iron deficiency resulting in the ‘devastating diagnosis we had feared’.
‘They don’t entertain investigating it with young people until it is too late,’ Caroline told The News. ‘My son should still be here. If you catch it early you have more chance of fighting it before it spreads.
‘We were told over and over again it is “very rare for someone so young receiving this diagnosis" which is why GPs do not typically take it any further.
‘I’m cross with myself. Bradley was not one to make a fuss, though, and would say “I’ll be Ok, I’ll beat this.” He never let negative thoughts enter his mind despite his conditioning worsening with every scan.’
Caroline added: ‘I’m a single mum and he was my only child and I feel like I’ve lost everything. Not only have I lost my son but we’ve lost our future together. I won’t be able to see him getting married and have grandchildren and other things we would have been able to do.’
But despite the loss of Bradley, Caroline is determined to carry on where Bradley left off with his fundraising, despite his own deteriorating health.
Bradley used his birthday in April last year to raise £2,200 for the charity Clic Sargent which helped him during his struggle. He was diagnosed four weeks after starting his digital marketing job in London having completed a business and economics degree at Kingston University.
While his company paid Bradley for two months, he had not built up any National Insurance contributions to get sick pay, while Universal Credit forms were lost by the government department – leaving him with no income until the charity stepped in.
‘Bradley raised the money for them by way of showing his appreciation for how they helped him through the most difficult year of his life,’ Caroline said. ‘Upon begrudgingly accepting the help from Clic, Bradley vowed once he was better that he would raise and donate the money he had to help him and raise much more for them. This is now my mission to do this for Bradley as they gave him back his dignity and independence.’
The kindness and empathy Bradley showed to others was another remarkable characteristic of his battle. He befriended Whiteley bowel cancer sufferer Charlotte Simpson, who became one of the youngest people in the UK to die of the disease when she was 18 in May 2020.
‘They never met but they became quite good friends. Bradley felt more for Charlotte than himself,’ Caroline said, summing up her son’s ‘generous and kind demeanour’.
‘It was incredible to find someone going through the same thing who lived so close. Both were only diagnosed when they had stage four cancer.’
Bradley’s ferocious battle saw him initially spurn being operated in April last year after his bowel perforated but was begged by a consultant at Queen Alexandra Hospital to have an operation. ‘They were amazing and didn’t let Covid stop his treatment,’ Caroline said.
Despite bouts of chemotherapy where Bradley would feel good again after a few days and be off out with his friends, his health was failing. Yet he still found happiness after striking up a relationship with his ‘amazing’ girlfriend Alice Edge.
But in the end the illness took its toll. ‘He said to me 14 hours before he died: “I can’t do this any more mum”,’ Caroline said.
To honour Bradley’s memory and to raise money for Clic Sergant, Caroline is holding an event called Bradleys Perfect Day on July 17 at The Ship Inn Langstone, where he used to work.
The day will start with a charity football match at Rowlands Castle Recreation Ground where Bradley’s two former teams ‘Castle’ will take on The Ship Inn.
This will be followed by a charity auction and raffle with glittering prizes that have been donated from companies across the south alongside a barbecue and drinks to celebrate Bradley.
Money raised for Clic Sergant will add to the £12,000 donated to them by well-wishers from Bradley’s funeral fundraiser.
Caroline added: ‘Bradley lived a life full of fun, laughter and love. His understated popularity and quiet confidence will leave an irreplaceable void in the lives of the people who knew him.
‘A truly inspirational life. Well lived. Well loved.’