Keith Thomas is a powerhouse in his fundraising. He has literally been a one man band and raised nearly £2,000 so far. Keith has been nominated for an award in the fundraising section of the Llanelli star community award.
I met up with Keith a few days ago. At Flanagans Cafe, down the Llanelli beach. Not to far from his home, as you may of seen on his Facebook page. As I met him, he had a huge grin on his face. You could never of said he had worked the morning shift. He was full of energy, wearing his trademark Marie Curie yellow t-shirt.
Keith and I met last year. We did a sponsored walk for Team Inca, a charity formed by 3 girls funraising for Mind and Shelter.
Since then he set up a challenge, to take a selfie with someone everyday for a year. ‘I just take some with random strangers, it’s a great way to get chatting to people’. He says.
We then chatted about what, was or has been his biggest help. To which he replied ‘Social media, social media has been amazing. Through social media I have met so many celebrities and taken selfies with them. I’ve had various interviews.’
‘Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been powerful tools, it’s good to create a buzz and making sure your on it everyday. Biggest advice I can give anyone, keep posting. Doesn’t matter if they’ve seen you already. Don’t let people forget. Everyday is potentially a new follower.’
Keith was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008, after many years of ill health and constant medical room visits.
Ulcerative colitis is a long term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed. Small ulcers can form on the colons lining and can bleed and produce pus. The main symptoms are recurring diarrhoea, which can contain blood or mucus. Pain in the abdominal, needing to empty bowels frequently and fatigue.
Keith was put on Prednisolone steroids and various other tablets. He was then having constant check ups to slowly wean off the tablets, but then the illness would still flare up. Life became miserable for him, he wouldn’t like to go out socially. Little things would be difficult. He would watch what he ate, as eating would cause is bowels to react. Just going out generally would be tough, he would have to plan his day out dramatically . He would need to use the toilet frequently.
After 4 years of trying to deal his condition, he got home one day and suffered from severe leg cramps. So painful he rang an ‘out of hours’ doctor which referred him to singleton hospital that evening. He had a fever, which helped them indentify that there was an infection somewhere.
After 10 days of trying to stop his from perforating. They managed to stop it, but there was no saving his bowels. Keith was given then the option to have a total colectomy or have a J pouch. After much research and speaking to people who have been through it. He decided that a total colectomy was the right decision, as it would be one operation one recovery.
After a 10 hour laparoscopy surgery, he was discharged 2 days later. After a six week recovery period, Keith was back in work. Throughout this Keith has had a lot of support and still does. Lots from family, friends, colleagues and of course Mrs T his wife.
He now has a ostomy bag, his ‘bag for life’ as he likes to call it. He knows that this was a huge change to face, but has remained positive throughout. He has to regularly, change the bag, plan each day out and create a daily routine. Whilst always still smiling.
Keith has now found a new lease of life and has taken up walking. On the 24th June, he will be walking 10k for Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity.
He will finish his selfie challenge on June the 30th. He will be down Llanelli beach on June 11th for a big selfie. He is also doing a big selfie on June the 4th in Swansea beach outside the 360 cafe site.
Keith posted a video on YouTube in September last year. He now has nearly 2,000 views, which shows him and raising awareness of his condition. Slowly becoming viral.
Keith likes to thank everyone who has helped him so far. Especially First bus, they have done a lot for him and so has his colleagues. Keith will be up for an award for his fundraising on Friday.
I think you can all join me in wishing Keith the best of luck.