YOUNGSTER George Thompson has thanked the Plymouth rugby community for the way they have rallied around him and his family during his battle with a rare cancer.
At the age of 17, George, who at the time was playing for Devonport Services, Devon and Exeter Chiefs Academy, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, which is a rare children’s cancer not normally found in teenagers.
He thought he just had a persistent sports injury so his diagnosis was a big shock to him and his family.
He spent most of last year receiving treatment at Bristol’s Children’s Hospital before beginning a trial in January at the Royal Marsten Hospital in London thanks to the support of Solving Kids’ Cancer charity.
This year’s Paul Lethbridge Memorial Day organised by Tamar Saracens and Old Techs helped raised money for Solving Kids’ Cancer, who helped fund his experiment treatment.
George and his dad Martin Thompson, the former Plymouth Albion star, recently met up with Tamar Saracens and Old Techs to collect a cheque of £4,000 on behalf of the children’s cancer charity.
The pair said it meant a lot coming from the rugby community, who had also been quick to help when George was first diagnosed with cancer. Thousands of pounds were raised through a crowd-funding page to help make sure the family could be with George in Bristol while he was having chemotherapy and other treatment.
“The support was just ridiculous as soon as word got out that I had been diagnosed,” said George.
“It is easy to say we are forever grateful, but we truly mean it.”
Martin added: “I think what it demonstrates is that the grassroots rugby family, regardless of who you are and what you do or whether you have seen them in years, when you do need them they are there, which is exactly what has happened to us.
“In our hour of need our rugby friends have come out and supported George and us as a family.”
Martin added: “What is also important about this is that the money raised this time is in memory of Paul (Lethbridge). It is his legacy and he is the reason people turn out which then generates money for the charity. I’m sure if he is looking down he would be proud.”
The Paul Lethbridge Memorial Day has helped raise more than £20,000 over the last few years and remembers former Tamar Saracens, Old Techs and DHSOB player Paul Lethbridge, who sadly died in 2013.
Organisers had contacted the Thompsons beforehand to see if they still needed any help themselves, but they were keen to support Solving Kids’ Cancer, who have made such a difference to them. Without the charity, George would not be on the trial he is on now.
“He’s had some very positive results,” said Martin. “It has had a massive impact, both on George’s health and for the family compared to 2020.
“But without the support of Solving Kids’ Cancer it would never have happened. The best thing we could have hoped for otherwise would have been to have gone to America to seek treatment. It is huge.
“I don’t think people realise how significant that money raised is.”
On the trial, George added: “It is amazing – it is just six tablets a day – that’s all it is. I have to go up (to the hospital) at the end of each month and every four months now I have scans and biopsies, but we have had some good results compared to last year.”
The Paul Lethbridge Memorial Day raised a record amount this year.
Tamar Saracens’ Dan Leeson said: “People may say rugby family, blah, blah, blah, but this proves there is a rugby family. The game is such an amazing event and I would be surprised if any other sport has this type of friendship and family.”
Pete Lethbridge, Paul’s brother and Tamar Saracens’ director of rugby, presented the cheque to George for Solving Kids’ Charity.