‘There is no such thing as can’t’

  • Chris Peskett’s brain is covered in tumours
  • He has a large inoperable one at the back of his brain
  • He has published his first novel to encourage disabled people to reach for their dreams no matter what life throws at them
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Despite being a ‘ticking time bomb’, Chris Peskett lives life to the full.

There is nothing the 23-year-old artist cannot do if he puts his mind to it.

Chris Peskett with fiancee' Kate Barrett. ''Picture:  Malcolm Wells (150528-1917)

Chris Peskett with fiancee' Kate Barrett. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (150528-1917)

His brain is covered in hundreds of tiny tumours and all his life he has suffered with ill health.

But he is determined to show other disabled young people that they can achieve their dreams, no matter what life throws at them.

When Chris, from Horndean, was born, he appeared to be healthy. But at six months, that suddenly changed.

He began fitting up to 30 times a day and a lifetime of almost daily hospital visits and near-death experiences began.

His mum Nicki says: ‘His diagnosis was tuberous sclerosis (TS).

‘We were told it was very unlikely he would ever walk, talk or feed himself. TS causes learning difficulties, epilepsy, tumours to grow in any organ of the body, autism and challenging behaviour.

‘Chris was admitted to hospital several times between one and seven years of age, with chest infections, suspected meningitis and problems with epilepsy drugs.

‘At one point he was unable to even stand or eat, because of being poisoned by his new epilepsy drug.

‘But he began walking at 20 months, he was potty trained by two-and-a-half and also starting to speak.’

Several times his family were told he would not survive until adulthood, so they moved to Spain to enjoy what they thought would be their last few years together.

But it soon became clear that Chris was not about to be beaten by his illnesses – despite pancreatic cancer almost killing him when he was 14.

At 23, he lives independently with fiancée Kate Barrett and has just published the first of five books, The Three Glowing Trees, set in a fantasy land, which he hopes will give others the drive to reach their goals. As well as the small tumours, Chris has a large, inoperable one at the back of his brain.

They cause fits and he has to take medication for the rest of his life.

He has also had pancreatic cancer since he was a boy.

Although it is in remission, he is still on chemotherapy.

But not even that gets him down. He says: ‘I actually just think of it as part of life. There is no point worrying “what’s going to happen to me tomorrow?”

‘I don’t think of it that way. Everything is managed with medication and, as long as I take it, I’ll be fine.

‘My positive attitude comes from my mum and dad.

‘They never look at something and think it can’t work. It always does.

‘If you work hard towards something you will achieve it.

‘It’s no good moping around. You’ve got to get on and deal with it.’

Chris teaches art to disabled people every Friday for Art Invisible, an Emsworth disability group for which he recently won a major volunteering award.

He says: ‘It’s lovely actually, it’s something that I really love.

‘Kate is also a talented artist and we both sold paintings at the Havant Arts Trail recently.

‘It was near-enough love at first sight for both of us. We both share a passion for art.

‘Kate is so chilled out and can go through anything. If I pick a film and Kate doesn’t like it she watches it anyway. We really get on well.’

And Kate agrees. She says: ‘I love everything about Chris. We’re also great friends.’

It only took Chris a few months to write his first book.

He managed to fit it in between his painting and sculpting.

The couple’s modern flat is full of their amazing artworks.

Chris says: ‘I have done art since I was a child and I have wanted to be an author for quite a while.

‘I came up with the idea for this book and designed it myself.

‘I thought it would be a great way to show people with disabilities that you can do something – that there is no such thing as can’t.

‘I’d like to spread that message around the world.

‘I want to show every disabled person who thinks, “I can’t do this” that, actually, they can.

‘I want to encourage people to work towards their goals and they will reach them.’

Thanks to Chris’ no-nonsense parents, Mike and Nicki, he has great self-belief and never spends a moment in self-pity despite his enormous health problems.

He says: ‘I started writing the book a few months ago.

‘My ideas come from films. I don’t copy them, I twist them round.

‘This particular book is inspired by Maleficent, Avatar, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

‘They are a combination of action, fantasy and thriller.’

Proud mum Nicki adds: ‘Chris has just nine hours per week support.

‘He has used up at least five of his nine lives, but he can ride a pushbike, and can ski, both of which were deemed impossible for him to learn.

‘He has learned to cook, do his washing, travel and manage his finances.’

To read a free copy of The Three Glowing Trees, go to issuu.com.

Tuberous sclerosis

Tuberous sclerosis, also known as tuberous sclerosis complex, is a rare genetic condition that causes mainly benign, non-cancerous, tumours to develop in different parts of the body.

Tumours can develop on the skin and in the brain, heart, eyes, kidneys and lungs.

There is currently no cure for the condition, but there is a range of treatments for many of the associated symptoms.

According to the NHS, new research has shown that medicines called mTOR inhibitors may have important benefits in the future.

There are a number of conditions associated with tuberous sclerosis, including epilepsy, learning disabilities, behavioural problems such as hyperactivity or autism, skin abnormalities and heart problems.

It can also cause kidney disease, lung problems and hydrocephalus – a build-up of fluid on the brain.

Tuberous sclerosis is a rare condition that affects one in every 6,000 live births worldwide.

The condition is caused by mutations in one of two genes – the TSC1 gene and the TSC2 gene.

As both of these genes are involved in regulating cell growth, it is thought that the mutations are responsible for causing multiple tumours to develop.

In around a quarter of cases, a child inherits one of the mutated genes from one of their parents. In the other 75 per cent of cases, the mutations occur for no apparent reason. For more information go to tuberous-sclerosis.org.