County Durham family vows to keep the promise of 'popular and lovable' son who died from skin cancer

Tom Linton from Chester-le-Street was diagnosed with melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, in January 2020 when he was 19. Credit: Family photo

A family from County Durham have vowed to keep the promise they made to a "popular and lovable" son who died at the age of 20.

Tom Linton from Chester-le-Street was diagnosed with melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, in January 2020 when he was 19 and passed away months later in May, just after his 20th birthday.

He asked his family to grant his final wish - to raise awareness of melanoma so that no other person would have to go through what he went through.

His family are now organising Tom's Fest - a tribute festival with the charity MelanomaMe to raise awareness of melanoma.

His mum Amanda Linton described how Tom's final days were restricted due to Covid restrictions but said he was just grateful to be home with her, his dad Steven and twin sister Hannah.

Credit: Family photo.

Amanda said: "It was hard for him because we were in full lockdown so he couldn't see his girlfriend or friends but throughout it all, he never complained.

"Tom said: 'Will you promise me you will go to Melanoma-Me', and I promised I would.

"He then said: 'Will you promise me that nobody will go through this' and that was his final wish."

Amanda explained how Tom started feeling unwell a month before Christmas in 2019. After suffering pain in his chest, Tom was rushed to A&E and developed blue spots on his body which concerned doctors.

The family said they were going backwards and forwards to the doctors but yet still had no answers as to what was wrong until Tom collapsed and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

During a scan, the doctors discovered there was cancer in his liver, his kidneys, and his lungs. Doctors suspected the primary cause originated from a mole on his arm.

Mole on Tom's arm. Credit: Family photo.

Tom, who worked at Lloyds Bank, and was studying at Northumbria University, had previously got a tattoo over the mole which he didn't think was anything to worry about.

Tom was diagnosed with melanoma in January 2020, but the cancer had already spread quickly and his condition deteriorated.

His mum said: "When he got diagnosed, he was 19, he was angry, he was upset but I think Tom did think he was going to beat it and it was going to be okay.

"In March, they didn't think he was going to survive the weekend but we got six weeks and two days with him."

What is melanoma?


Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.

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Signs and symptoms of melanoma

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.

This can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women. 

Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.

In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than 1 colour.

The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.

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What causes melanoma?

Melanoma is caused by skin cells that begin to develop abnormally.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas, but there's evidence to suggest that some may result from sunbed exposure.

The type of sun exposure that causes melanoma is sudden intense exposure. For example, while on holiday, which leads to sunburn.

Certain things can increase your chance of developing melanoma, such as having:

  • Lots of moles or freckles

  • Pale skin that burns easily

  • Red or blonde hair

  • A close family member who's had melanoma

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Diagnosing melanoma

See a GP if you notice any change to your moles. They'll refer you to a specialist clinic or hospital if they think you have melanoma.

In most cases, a suspicious mole will be surgically removed and closely examined to see whether it's cancerous. This is known as a biopsy.

A biopsy usually involves removing a small sample of tissue. But in cases of melanoma, the whole thing is usually removed from the beginning.

You may also have a test to check if the melanoma has spread to your lymph glands (nodes). This is known as a sentinel node biopsy.

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Paying tribute to her son, Amanda said he "touched the hearts of everyone he met" and is still a huge part of people's lives.

She said: "Tom was a very lovable child, he was very popular and had lots of friends at all three schools and sixth form.

"He was just somebody that everybody loved and once you had been with Tom, you felt so much better."

Credit: Family photo.

Kerry Rafferty founded the charity MelanomaMe after being diagnosed with melanoma herself and now provides counselling to those affected by the disease along with a small team.

Together with Tom's family, she is raising awareness of signs to look out for and is helping to organise Tom's Fest.

She said: "I don't think people realise you can be born with melanoma it can be passed on from parents and that it's not always caused by the sun.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking what his family is going through. His sister has to live life without her brother.

"But I feel really blessed I can help in some way. Young people are so hard to reach so if they see the article or a poster for the event it might prompt them to get something checked out. It can save a life."

Amanda added: "Tom loved music, that was his life so he would be absolutely buzzing we are holding this event.

"We want to keep Tom's legacy alive but, most of all, keep the promise we made him."

Tom’s Fest will be held on May 28 at Park View School, in Chester Le-Street, where Tom attended, and will feature bands, tribute acts, and food stalls.