A MAN from Wargrave whose best friend almost died from leukaemia is urging people to back a cancer charity.
Tom Huyton, 22, of Victoria Road, wants people to buy Cancer Research UK ?unity? bands to help raise money for the charity following World Cancer Day on Wednesday.
Mr Huyton?s childhood friend Max Horwood was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2003, when he was 10.
Mr Horwood, 22, from Fleet, Hampshire, underwent immunotherapy treatment for 18 months before having a bone marrow transplant in July 2005.
He has now fully recovered and is studying for a masters degree in health psychology at the University of Surrey after graduating from Bournemouth University in psychology in July.
The men have been friends since their first day at Reading School in 2004, when they were 11 and in the same class.
Mr Huyton, who is studying business administration at Bath University, said: ?Our surnames are quite close together so we were sat next to each other and we got on really well from day one.
?Max had already been diagnosed at that time but he didn?t tell any of us until the end of the year.
?He came in with a teacher who told us he was taking a year off because a donor had been found for him.
?None of us could believe it ? you would never have guessed because Max always put such a brave face on it. At that age you aren?t really aware of cancer so when your best mate is diagnosed it really hits you.? More than 8,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with leukaemia each year, including about 500 children. Fewer than half of those diagnosed survive past 10 years and Mr Huyton says Mr Horwood was one of the lucky few.
Days before he was planning to go away on holiday in 2005, Mr Horwood went for a routine check-up where he was told his spleen had swollen due to the treatment.
Mr Huyton said: ?If he had flown his spleen could have burst and that would have been it for him. Thankfully, he?s all good now and he?s always so positive, he?s an inspiration.?
Despite now attending universities 100 miles apart, Mr Horwood and Mr Huyton remain good friends and were approached by Cancer Research UK to take part in the campaign this month.
The unity bands, which are made of different coloured pieces of string tied in a knot, are available from the charity?s shops in exchange for a donation.
Mr Horwood said: ?Tom was there all through my treatment. I remember the day I had to tell my form I was going for the transplant. Tom was there with me then so it?s appropriate he is with me today too.
?That?s why we?re both backing Cancer Research UK and encouraging everyone to get a unity band.?
Mr Huyton added: ?Max and I are trying to get as many people buying the wristbands as we can. We are both very happy to take part. When you have seen people go through experiences like that you?ll do anything to get involved.
?I still see Max all the time and we are still very good mates. For someone who has gone through so much he?s a great guy and I?ll always be there for him.?
For more information, visit www.cruk.org/worldcancerday
or search #WeWillUnite on Twitter.