Tom Parker, the 32-year old British singer of the former band The Wanted, has shared that he’s undergoing treatment for a stage IV brain tumor called a glioblastoma.
In an announcement on Instagram, Parker said that he and his wife, Kelsey Hardwick, had decided to share their experience in an in-depth interview. “Rather than hiding away and trying to keep it a secret, we would do one interview where we could lay out all the details and let everyone know the facts in our own way,” he said.
In OK! magazine, Parker explained that he was experiencing “bizarre and unexplained seizures” for weeks over the summer. After three days of testing, Parker said, “They pulled the curtain around my bed and said, ‘It’s a brain tumor.’ All I could think was, F**king hell! I was in shock. It’s stage IV glioblastoma and they’ve said it’s terminal.”
Parker is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment and told the magazine, “I still haven’t processed it.”
Parker and Hardwick have a 1-year-old daughter together, Aurelia, and announced back in May that another baby is on the way. Now, Hardwick is understandably having trouble processing the diagnosis. “Watching your partner go through this is so hard, because how can I tell him not to let it consume him?” she told OK!
The Wanted’s other band members—Jay McGuiness, Siva Kaneswaran, Max George, and Nathan Sykes—have been helping to support the couple since the diagnosis. “They are gutted by the news, but they’ve been incredibly supportive. Jay has been round to see us a few times since we got the news and is reading up on everything he can, and Max was here last week,” Parker said. “Siva and Nathan obviously live a lot further away, but all four of the boys have been texting regularly and sending through different articles and possible treatments and therapies that they’re all reading about.”
“We don’t want your sadness, we just want love and positivity,” the singer explained.
According to the National Cancer Institute, glioblastoma is the most common type of brain cancer in people 18 and over. Around 14,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. It’s typically aggressive and spreads quickly, though it rarely spreads outside the brain. It’s most common in active, otherwise healthy men like Parker, although the average age of diagnosis is 64, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
In addition to seizures like the ones Parker experienced, other glioblastoma symptoms include headache, memory problems, weakness on one side of the body, difficulty thinking and speaking, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. The symptoms typically present quickly, as if out of nowhere, though they can sometimes be more gradual, the National Cancer Institute says.
While there isn’t a cure, experts have made progress in life expectancy, which used to hover around 8–10 months on average in the 1990s and is now closer to 15–18 months, according to the National Cancer Institute. And while nearly no glioblastoma patients survived for five years post-diagnosis in the ’90s, around 15% of patients now live to five years after diagnosis.
There are few known causes for glioblastoma, though previous radiation treatment to the central nervous system or head can be a factor, the National Cancer Institute says. Genetic syndromes can also cause glioblastoma in rare cases, per the National Institute of Health’s Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center.
In some patients, the first-line course of treatment is surgery, though Parker has made clear that wasn’t an option for his case. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, glioblastomas typically have “finger-like tentacles that infiltrate the brain,” making it hard to completely remove them during surgery. Afterward, radiation and chemotherapy are standard treatments. Even in surgery cases with good results, glioblastoma will essentially always recur because small fragments of cancer are often left behind.
“We have had so many people reach out with positive stories and it’s been incredible,” Parker wrote after an outpouring of love followed his initial diagnosis. “We are fighting this,” he wrote. “Thanks to everyone behind us fighting alongside us.”