The Wanted's Tom Parker: 'I'm not paying attention to cancer'

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Media caption, The Wanted's Tom Parker: "Live today like it's your last"

The Wanted's Tom Parker says he refuses to let cancer dominate his life, almost a year after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

"It's not that I'm ignoring cancer but I just don't want to pay it any attention," he told BBC Breakfast.

"The more attention you pay it, the more it consumes your life and I don't want to consume my life.

"I've got kids, I've got family. So I just try and just ignore it as much as possible."

The star was speaking to the BBC ahead of a special charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday.

All proceeds will be split equally between Stand Up To Cancer and the National Brain Appeal.

The fundraiser will feature Ed Sheeran, Sigrid, Liam Payne and McFly as well as the first appearance for more than seven years by The Wanted.

"That came out of nowhere to be honest with you," said Parker, who thought the band would never return from the "indefinite hiatus" they announced in 2014.

Discussions about a reunion initially took place in 2020, but were put on hold by the pandemic and Parker's cancer diagnosis.

But after playing four songs at Monday's charity show, they will release a greatest hits album and embark on a 12-date UK tour next March.

"I'm pretty scared, to be honest, but at the same time very excited," said Parker. "We've been together a little bit over the last few weeks and the chemistry's still the same."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The Wanted (L-R: Jay McGuinnes, Nathan Sykes, Max George, Siva Kaneswaran and Tom Parker) scored hits on both sides of the Atlantic

And while playing for fans again has got him excited, another part of life on the road holds equal allure.

"Do you know what I'm looking forward to? Sleeping on the tour bus again," he laughs. "It was all cosy and stuff. I loved it, I loved our time on the tour bus, probably just as much as being on stage."

Things will be different this time around, though. Although Parker's tumour shrunk after six cycles of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation, it is still very much there.

One of the side-effects is limited movement on his left-hand side.

"That's hard at times, when you've [got] stilted walking and you can't move your arm properly," he said.

"I was a bit of livewire on stage. So this time it's probably going to be a little calmer," he says. "But The Wanted were never really known for their dancing."

'Curl up and die'

The 33-year-old achieved fame in the early 2010s as one-fifth of The Wanted, reaching number one with the singles All Time Low and Glad You Came.

Since they went on hiatus in 2014, he has played Danny Zuko in a touring production of Grease, and made the semi-finals of Celebrity Masterchef.

He married actress Kelsey Hardwick in 2018. The couple have two children, Aurelia and Bodhi, who was born weeks after Parker discovered he had cancer last October.

Image source, Tom Parker / Instagram
Image caption, Parker, his wife Kelsey and their newborn son Bodhi, in a picture posted to Instagram in March

The singer described those initial months of treatment as the loneliest time of his life.

"You feel like you want to curl up and die, to be quite honest with you," he told BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson.

"It took me so long to not be able to be affected by things that I saw online. Every morning I would Google, or go on Twitter and type in glioblastoma, and it would just drag my day down.

"Now that I've kind of put that to bed, I'm not as obsessed with it. I'm just learning to live my life a little bit more."

He said he had struggled with his weight after losing appetite during chemotherapy.

"I lost about three-and-a-half stone in about three weeks," he recalled. "That was actually the toughest part, trying to sustain the weight - because obviously you don't have an appetite.

"We were trying to stick to a diet, trying to eat as clean as possible - but then, you don't want to eat a salad.

"It was like, 'I'll order KFC,' but you don't really want to put stuff like that in your body. It's a bit of a catch 22."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The singer says he is "buzzing" at the prospect of playing live again

Parker said he survived the darkest days thanks to the support of his wife - "she's a warrior" - and paid tribute to the kindness of fans and strangers.

"People are just beautiful. They just want to help in any way they can, even just little things like people popping into the shop and bringing you some milk. Just beautiful."

His bandmates Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness and Nathan Sykes have also been "a great support network," he added.

"I don't think I would have been able to get by to without their help."

Looking to the future, he is concentrating on raising his young family and planning The Wanted's tour.

"It's getting closer by the day. I'm like, 'I probably need to go to the gym and do some work'. But I'm just excited - just buzzing about everyone's involvement in it."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The Wanted split in 2014 after a concert in Oklahoma, USA

The first step will be Monday's concert, dubbed Inside Your Head, where The Wanted will appear alongside Sigrid, KSI and a specially-recorded performance by Ed Sheeran.

"I'm genuinely over the moon about it. He's the biggest artist on the planet," Parker said.

"It means the world - not just to me personally but to our community, for the cancer community, for people who are going through glioblastoma."

Parker's hope is that the concert will not just offer encouragement to patients with brain tumours like his, but that it could change the course of their treatment.

"No one's been able to find a cure, no one's been able to find a treatment, so we want to focus on trying to get as much money and funding for charities as possible, so they can try and find new breakthroughs.

"It feels like they're on the cusp of doing it. So hopefully this concert can make a change."

What is glioblastoma?

  • Glioblastoma is the most common type of brain tumour
  • It is the most aggressive form of adult brain tumour and is often resistant to treatment
  • It is believed that the variety of cells in a glioblastoma is one of the reasons it is so hard to treat because current drugs are not able to effectively target all the cell types in the tumour
  • As with most brain tumours, the cause of glioblastoma is not known

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