Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Comics fanatic Andrew died at 23... help fulfil his wish to comfort other cancer sufferers

Andrew Fitzsimmons died at the age of 23 in 2013

Facing death at the age of just 23, Andrew Fitzsimmons's thoughts were on how he could help others through his battle with ill-health.

The young Belfast man, who died from a rare form of cancer in October last year, had a final wish to publish a comic he had written based on his life.

Sadly, the graduate died before he could see this dream come true and now his grieving family is appealing to the public to back hopes of producing his book to help others.

Andrew was diagnosed with osteosarcoma bone cancer in 2011 and passed away on October 1 last year.

A former pupil of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and a Liverpool University graduate, Andrew had the idea of creating a comic book about his life journey to help others in hospital.

The comic was largely scripted by the keen athlete and he found his love of animation helped him talk about what he was going through.

Andrew was working with Uproar Comics in Londonderry at the time of his death, and its art team is keen to see the comic finally come to life. It is scripting it for free but needs production costs to be covered.

Despite undergoing gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and living out the final stage of his life in a wheelchair, Andrew inspired his family and friends by making the most of every opportunity. He attended concerts, enjoyed holidays and returned to Liverpool to complete his English studies.

His parents, John and Marion Fitzsimmons, and siblings Craig (25) and Rachel (21) have now launched a fundraising campaign and are appealing to the public to make a donation, however small, to get the comic project completed.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, John said the comic will be his son's legacy. "He wanted others who have to deal with an experience like his to benefit from it," he said. "We aim to raise between £3,000 and £5,000 to have 1,000 copies made, so they can be sent to hospitals across the UK, and electronic versions will be available as well.

"We are asking for the support of your readers to help raise money for the printing and illustration costs. As a family we want to make his dream live on, like the memories we have of Andrew."

Simon Darby, a social worker with the charity CLIC Sargent, has been working the with Fitzsimmons family and Uproar Comics to make Andrew's dream a reality.

Danny McLaughlin from Uproar Comics bonded with Andrew due to their "mutual loves of comics and all things that are geeky". "We hit it off and started scripting," Danny said.

"As scripting continued myself and Andrew talked quite a bit about his life and got very close.

"He wanted to show the hurdles and trials that someone in his situation faces, but in contrast to the support from family, friends, and organisations around him."

Danny's involvement in the project is all the more poignant as his father died from cancer when he was young.

"I felt that I needed to tell Andrew's story because I know that this project was something he wanted to leave as his legacy, as a thank you to everyone in his life," Danny added.

"Being one of those people left behind from a family member's death, I needed to do this because I felt very close to it all. I haven't stopped working towards the goal we set in our heads."

Donations can be sent to: The Fitzsimmons Family, 31 Bruce Street, Belfast, BT2 7JD.

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