Ground Force legend Tommy Walsh, who is appearing innew BBC series Clean It, Fix It, has raised awareness of breast cancer after not knowing men could get the disease before his own ordeal
Tommy Walsh had no idea that men could get breast cancer until he suffered his own ordeal.
The celebrity builder, who got his big break on Ground Force in 1997 after sorting out a producer’s pond, has been raising awareness of disease amongst young men ever since.
Alarm bells started to ring when Tommy, now 64, found two lumps on his chest in 2002 and went to see a doctor straight, but it took him a while to get an appointment because it was more of an “afterthought”.
Because of his family history, the doctor suggested that he see a consultant at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
Coincidentally, this was the same one who his sister had seen, having had a lumpectomy to remove cancerous and normal breast tissue when she was just 31-years-old before making a full recovery.
There was also history of breast cancer in his family going back another generation, as the Ground Force star’s aunt contracted the disease but left it untreated.
“She was in her late 50s when she developed symptoms but she went into denial about the problem,” Tommy told The Mirror in 2013.
“It was very sad, as she was a lovely woman who worked as a home help.”
While the doctor said it was probably nothing, he sent Tommy to have the lumps in his chest investigated.
Admitting he wasn’t too worried when he went to the hospital, the TV builder said: “I was being a bit of a bloke about the whole thing.
“I just buried myself in my work and then went along for the day surgery where the lumps were removed under a general anaesthetic.
“It was only then that it sort of hit me that this could actually be serious and I could have breast cancer, like my relatives.”
Like most people, Tommy had no idea that men could get breast cancer before his own experience.
Around 2,600 are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year – sadly with 500 of those anticipated to die.
Thankfully for Tommy, the test results showed that the lumps were benign, but he confessed it was “a bit of a wake-up call” about the disease.
Not long after he was invited on to ITV ’s This Morning to talk about his experiences with then hosts hosted by Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton and to raise public awareness about male breast cancer.
He has also worked with Breast Cancer Care, which started selling pink Makita electric drills to raise funds for the charity.
“I do hope men will take the issue of breast cancer seriously,” warned Tommy back in 2013.
“I feel I have a duty to talk about male breast cancer as I feel like a lucky survivor and I do think men are more vulnerable.
“I want to make sure the message is out there that men need to be vigilant about their health too.
“Most just think it won’t happen to them.”
Tommy lives in Hackney with his wife Marie Walsh and they have three children – Charlotte, Natalie and Jonjo.
The TV builder, who currently stars in new BBC series Clean It, Fix It, has been in good health over the years aside from a few accidents.
A very accident-prone child, Tommy broke his neck falling off a roof at the age of 12 and has broken several bones since.
And he once got a nasty bout of food poisoning from a defrosted chicken at his own BBQ, which took everyone down apart from his wife.
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