Australian actor Tom Long has given a rare update on his health just months after he revealed he was living with terminal cancer, revealing he is now in remission.
The star – who has appeared in some of Australia’s favourite shows and movies including The Dish, The Postcard Bandit and SeaChange – was originally diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2012. Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow that severally impact the immune system.
After revealing to Lisa Wilkinson on The Project in March that he was travelling to the United States for a clinical trial to try and save his life, the beloved star appeared on Sunday’s episode of the hit show to give his fans an update on his health.
While he appeared gaunt with a shaven head and scars on his scalp during his first appearance, Long looked healthier during his latest interview and appeared alongside his loving wife, Rebecca Fleming. He had initially been given just months to live.
The Book of Revelation star explained that for seven years following his diagnosis, he threw everything at the blood cancer but that chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and various other trials did little to help him.
“I was thinking, ‘Okay, yeah, that’s it’,” he told Wilkinson, admitting that his path was looking dark.
His last shot was a medical trial in Seattle, but he admitted he never thought he’d return home. Long was one of 18 participants in a new experimental trial where his t-cells were harvested and genetically modified to identify and kill the cancer cells. The super-charged cells were then injected back into Long’s body to attack the cancer.
The actor described the first day of the trial as a relief, while his wife said she felt emotional when she watched the cells going back into her husband’s body.
“This is what we were banking on,” she said. “Looking into this bag and watching them go in and just pour all of our energies and hopes and prayers into this little gold fluid.”
Long explained that the treatment pushed him to his limits, where he was challenged physically, mentally and experienced side effects including sweating, vomiting and fevers. He was in and out of hospital with infections and wasn’t even sure if the treatment was impacting the level of cancer in his bones. He then got the call he was waiting for.
“We were having coffee at our favourite coffee place and then we got a phone call from Dr Damian Green – who was heading the trial in Seattle,” Long recalled. “He just said that I had nothing in the bone marrow. It’s been a long road.
Long’s son Ariel and stepsons Kit and Kennedy also appeared on the show, where they said their father has strengthened since returning home. They also said he’s now on less medication. Meanwhile, Professor Miles Prince – who suggested Long for the trial – said the treatment has been successful.
“Now, he is in remission,” he said. “Is Tom cured? I don’t know, but I can tell you if you go back to the original CAR T therapy who had acute therapy, they were considered incurable and a lot of them are still alive today.”
The beloved actor said the treatment saved his life “without a doubt”.
“As a man with no hope, now I can reframe repurpose my whole life and it doesn’t have to be about cancer,” he said.
Viewers at home took to social media to wish Long and his family well.
One person on Facebook wrote: “Just incredible! Tom is looking so well. And kudos to the team of doctors and nurses and everyone involved!”
Another comment read: “This is amazing!! Wasn’t his time to go!”
A third added: “Such a great outcome after a long awful journey. Let’s hope this treatment becomes the norm before too long.”