FORMAL education was never for me – I didn’t have the personality type for it.
I was more into practical things, and there wasn’t much of that at school.
I only ended up lasting six months doing geography at Manchester Met before I f***ed it off.
After I was kicked out of uni, my weed habit started to become a problem.
My parents, Noreen and Nigel, are quite liberal-minded, but they couldn’t accept the person that I was becoming and we had a lot of arguments about my cannabis use.
Over the space of a couple of years I’d gone from casually smoking with my mates to full-on addiction.
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We would do pretty much anything to get high.
I’m ashamed to say that eventually extended to taking stuff from my parents’ house and pawning it at Cash Converters — videos, jewellery, anything that could get me a few quid.
That’s how much I’d lost control of who I was.
The final straw came when somebody posted a birthday card through the door for Mum. I opened it and stole the crisp £10 notes that had been folded inside.
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My parents had to take extreme measures in the hope that I might learn to understand the damaging path that I was on — they kicked me out of our family home.
I ended up on a sofa in my mate Wayne’s house around the corner for the next few months. I continued this downward spiral — more weed, more drink — and I wouldn’t see my parents, even though they were only a couple of streets away.
When I left St Brendan’s RC Primary School in Harwood, Bolton, where I grew up, the priest said: “Tom is a nice young lad. He’s either going to be a footballer, or he’s going to end up in Strangeways prison.”
All the parents at the leavers’ assembly gasped.
It was only a joke, but my mum was absolutely livid, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, I was well aware of those low expectations placed on me by others outside of the home — they were unavoidable. I just didn’t fit into society’s idea of what a good kid was.
Secondary school, Thornleigh Salesian College, was a particularly tough time. I still wasn’t well behaved.
As a child, I used to sing all the time — I loved it.
But in my first year I started wanting to fit in with the cool crowd. I began to hide parts of myself and stopped singing as much.
I learned the hard way that the key to a more fulfilling lifestyle is to just be yourself.
I had to put up with a lot of s**t in order to be accepted by the popular kids. It wasn’t overtly bullying, but a general toxicity.
There was a lot of name-calling because of my height.
I used to wear a parka, which led to me being nicknamed Saj after the kid from the film East Is East.
I literally wasn’t called Tom throughout the whole of my time at school.
The final straw came when my backpack full of GCSE work was stolen in Year 11, and it took me a week to get it back.
By the time I discovered my notes all over the muddy cricket pitch, none of it was readable any more.
I couldn’t hold back the tears when my mum found out.
My brother Lewis is five years older than me and was actually the first musician in our family.
Lewis was the one who taught me my first chords on the guitar to get me going.
I had taught myself to play Wonderwall by Oasis.
That song kick-started my whole interest in music.
A LOT OF NAME-CALLING
As a 16-year-old I decided to audition for The X Factor.
I got the train over to Manchester for the audition and joined the massive queue of other hopefuls waiting on a drizzly morning for their chance to shine in front of the judges.
Sadly, I wouldn’t even make it that far. At the time I was devastated.
My only saving grace was that they hadn’t recorded my rejection. It was a huge knock to my confidence and I stopped singing for about six months.
Another key moment that steered me towards a career in music was a karaoke competition at a pub in Bolton called The Swan.
The atmosphere was electric after my performance of Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
I walked away with the £1,000 — and used it to start growing weed!
A guy in the audience was part of Take That II, a tribute act based in Leeds.
They were looking for a Mark Owen to complete their line-up and saw some potential in me.
Joining that band gave me my first taste of having to go and sing in public as part of a group. It was pretty serious.
The guy who played Gary Barlow basically lived as Gary Barlow — it was pretty bizarre.
I think it was fate that drew me to discover an advert in summer 2008 for a site called Jayne Collins Casting.
They were looking for people to audition for a pop group.
I was on Jobseeker’s Allowance, so I applied and the very next day, me and one of my best friends, Ali, in his Citroën Saxo — fuelled by stolen petrol — were racing down to London for what I felt could be the opportunity I’d been craving.
Over nine months, more than 1,000 people took their chance at a place in the yet-to-be-named pop group being assembled by Jayne, who had formed The Saturdays.
At a crucial point in the process I asked my mum if I could have my birthday money early so I could get the train to London for the next audition but she thought that I was going down to get p***ed, or the entire audition process was an elaborate scam altogether.
She said if I was dedicated, then I’d take the bus. So I made the £1 Megabus trip.
By that stage they had narrowed us down to 12, and after that audition they picked the final five, which I was part of.
I couldn’t believe it — all that work and self-belief was paying off.
Within a month we were looking at properties in London as a band.
I was definitely part of this new boy band that was about to begin its journey towards pop superstardom.
Mum didn’t believe any of it until months later when she had a copy of The Wanted’s first single All Time Low in her hands.
When I’d been sitting around smoking weed, I could never have anticipated where I’d find myself less than a year later.
When the charts were announced in October 2010, none of us was expecting to hear that we had reached No 1.
I cried like a baby. That’s an achievement that nobody can ever take away from us. The Wanted will forever be UK No 1 recording artists.
ALTHOUGH cannabis almost ruined Tom’s life as a teen, when he was diagnosed with cancer in August 2020 he started to use it as a therapeutic remedy, alongside more conventional treatments.
I was offered radiotherapy and chemotherapy by the NHS, but that was that.
I’m a very inquisitive person by nature, so, not content with the options that I’d been presented with, I accessed further treatments, including new experimental drugs and holistic therapies which have each played an important part in my journey.
For Kelsey and me, it felt natural to explore alternative therapy.
Our mums are both a little bit outside the box and my mum is really into crystals and stuff, so it’s always been a part of our lives.
There’s a whole world out there and we’re often guilty of just taking what has been accepted in the West.
During that first four or five months after my diagnosis I don’t think there was a doctor or practitioner in the world that I didn’t get in touch with.
I’ve worked with cranial osteopaths, energy healers, Ayurvedic practitioners and homeopaths, to name a few.
There’s not many people who are diagnosed with glioblastoma who reach a year down the line and get their tumour to a stable state like I did.
Despite all the trouble that it caused earlier in my life, I honestly do credit cannabis for that.
Almost all the doctors I’ve spoken to on this journey mentioned that it could help.
It’s a way to get through the pain, particularly early on.
I’ve had other doctors who have frowned at my use of cannabis when it was the only thing giving me any proper pain relief, as if it’s any worse than the heavy-duty drugs that they were prescribing me.
It’s very frustrating when you find a treatment that you want to try and your oncologist is closed off to it — a drug is only as good as the doctor is with that drug.
I started to take a few drops of cannabis oil every evening very shortly after my diagnosis.
It’s THC (the main compound in cannabis that produces a high) stripped from the cannabis bud, super-concentrated, thick oil — like tar.
When you take a drop, at first you basically just pass out, then you have to build your tolerance daily as you go, taking a tiny bit every evening just to keep going.
At the very least I can say it definitely stimulated my appetite, and that’s a good thing for someone going through cancer treatment.
Perhaps even more importantly, it’s made me laugh at things.
The cannabis oil helps you to bring out a side of yourself that wouldn’t be accessible to you during a course of chemotherapy.
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The laughs we had on our Wanted WhatsApp group with our manager Damo every night after I’d had my cannabis oil were hilarious and truly special.
I just hope that chat never gets out — it would get me in a lot of trouble!
- Tom died aged 33 on March 30 this year, leaving wife Kelsey and their daughter Aurelia, two, and son Bodhi, one.
- Adapted by EMILY FAIRBAIRN and DOUG WIGHT from Hope: My Inspirational Life, by Tom Parker, published on May 26 by Blink Publishing.