A dad-of-five with an aggressive form of cancer has been told to reduce contact with his young children while undergoing intensive chemotherapy.
Ben Nixon, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on December 2, 2020 – his fiancée Naomi Edwards’ birthday.
Two weeks before Christmas doctors discovered he was living with the most aggressive form of the disease and on January 7 he was given the devastating news that it had spread to his bones and liver.
To make matters worse the 38-year-old has been told to avoid close contact with his three youngest children Eviie, eight, Ronnie, four, and Reggie, two, for fear he will catch something from them.
He’s also not able to see his two eldest children Kai, 11, and Charlie, nine, who live with Ben’s previous partner just a few streets away, as he is on the shielding list.
“His immune system is really low so if the kids catch something there’s a really high risk that he might pick it up, become very unwell, and even die,” said Naomi.
“It’s been so hard but he’s as strong as an ox and I know he’ll get through it. There is no other outcome than him being in remission by the end of the year.”
Naomi said Ben noticed a lump under one of his armpits, as well as one on his neck, towards the start of last year but decided to put off getting it checked out due to the first wave of Covid-19.
“It wasn’t until late November that he started not feeling himself,” she added. “That’s when he finally decided to go to the doctor who referred him to hospital for scans and a biopsy.”
When he was finally diagnosed with cancer on December 2 at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff Noami said it came as a deep shock to her and the rest of the family.
“He knew all along that it was cancer but because we’ve got three kids living at home I was trying to brush it under the carpet and convince myself it was something else,” Naomi added.
Two weeks later following further investigations Ben’s cancer was classed as stage 4B – the worst and most aggressive it can get.
Then after a PET scan on January 7, his son Reggie’s second birthday, he was told the disease had spread and would require chemotherapy to start immediately.
“After the chemotherapy there will be another check-up to see whether [the tumours] have decreased in size. They haven’t said it’s terminal yet,” added Naomi, who has been with Ben for seven years.
Ben, who was described by Naomi as “strong, funny, intelligent, and into his rugby”, was due to start a new job as a window fitter before his devastating diagnosis.
As a result Naomi admitted that the family has fallen on hard times financially as well as both emotionally and physically. A GoFundMe page was set up by Naomi’s best friend Kerys Smith which to date has raised £3,120 for them. To donate go here.
“It’s really overwhelming to see how much has been raised, especially because we’ll be spending much of this year at home due to Ben shielding,” Naomi said.
“We’ll be able to sort the garden out so the children can enjoy the summer at home. This ordeal has also been heartbreaking for his two oldest children who only live two streets away but can’t come over and see us.”
On Ben’s birthday on February 11, the day he started his chemotherapy at UHW, he received video messages from some of his favourite rugby stars including former England star Jonny Wilkinson, South Africa winger Bryan Habana, and All Blacks heroes Ma’a Nonu and Carl Hayman.
Noami said Ben, who has at times struggled with the effects of his treatment, wants to get through this as quickly as possible so they can tie the knot in 2022.