Teen faces fight of his life

UFC Double Champion Alex Pereira visited Ashton Choothesa at The Royal Children's Hospital last week.

Ashton Choothesa was entering his final years of high school, working and volunteering in his community, and planning an overseas adventure when he suddenly had to put everything on hold.

The Castlemaine 17-year-old’s world changed when he was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma earlier this year. He is now two weeks into an intensive six-month chemotherapy treatment.

Just before he was about set off on his trip to Germany, Ashton developed severe back pain and rushed to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for emergency neurosurgery.

The source of pain was a tumour on his spine and further tests revealed the cancer had spread through his lymph nodes to his neck, stomach, spleen and lungs.

In another blow, Ashton, who is described as “community-minded” and “vivacious”, has had to take a step back from work at Castlemaine’s Theatre Royal and regular volunteering at Kyneton Community House.

The Castlemaine Secondary College student has also had to put school on hold as well as his training in Muay Thai sports.

His mum it was difficult to describe the emotional journey they have seen through as a family.

“In the first few days when we didn’t know what was happening, it was fear of losing him; as child, as brother and as a beautiful human. Ashton’s younger brothers were extremely stressed,” she said.

“It’s times like these where your community becomes invaluable for support and understanding.

“When he was diagnosed and a treatment plan was an option we felt somewhat relieved. We also knew it was going to be a long difficult journey for Ashton and what can we do to make this journey worth taking for him.”

Ashton and his family remain optimistic about treatment but know there are supportive therapies that can improve his experience.

His mother’s partner established a GoFundMe page earlier to help fundraise for this opportunity and his recovery journey.

“This gorgeous young human has an incredible spirit for life. He loves having his community around him and is known by many as a generous, ambitious and loving person,” they said.

“This cancer has good outcomes with treatment but he would really benefit from adjunct therapy to maximise the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.

“Our hope is that we can raise some money to support his family in this time, as well as pay for the adjunct therapy. We would also really love to help send him to Germany once he has recovered.”

The family has been amazed by the community response to the fundraising page so far. Within less than 24 hours it had reached $16,000 towards the $35,000 target.

“It’s been such an overwhelming amount of support from people, it’s been truly mind blowing for myself and my family during this time,” Ashton said.

“When I think about my community giving me this much support it truly gives me strength to keep going through my chemotherapy treatment.”

Last week, Ashton shaved his head as he began losing his hair to treatment – but he did not do it alone.

One of his sporting heroes, UFC Double Champion Alex Pereira visited him at the hospital to raise his spirits.

Ashton has a tough journey ahead but he is keeping his fighting spirit.

People wanting to make a donation to the GoFundMe page can do so via: gofundme.com/f/support-ashton-through-treatment-for-hodgkin-lymphoma