A young father-to-be from Wollongong on the NSW south coast is facing the devastating prospect of never speaking again after being diagnosed with a rare cancer that develops in the salivary glands.
Sean Finnerty recently discovered he has Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (AdCC) and will require surgery to remove his tongue in a matter of weeks.
The fireman and paramedic, who is expecting his first baby in October with wife Jess, will miss ever being able to speak to his little boy.
Writing on a fundraising website, his very close friend, Luke Rogerson, shared the "heartbreaking" news that Sean will have his tongue removed "rendering him unable to speak or communicate verbally".
"He will have a tract in his throat and wont be able to eat solid food for the foreseeable future," Luke said. "By the time their baby boy is born, Sean will have had surgery and radiation to attempt to limit the chance of the cancer returning."
Following the surgery, Sean will also be unable to return to his work in the emergency services.
Photo: Jess and Sean Finnerty. Facebook.
Luke describes Sean as completely 'selfless': "He is just such a good person and would do anything for anyone."
Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is most often found in younger and middle-aged adults, although it can occur at any age, and the 15-year survival rate is about 40 per cent.
Friends, family and complete strangers have rallied around Sean, in an outpouring of support and generosity.
A campaign, set up by Luke to help relieve Sean and his wife of some of the "extreme emotional and financial burden", has already raised $158,000 in four days.
"We're all blown away by the support," Luke said. "I can't even put the feelings into words. Sean and his family are overwhelmed, it's beautiful to see."
In an update on the fundraising site, his father Stephen described Sean "an inspiration to us all" with his attitude and positivity.
"He is in for a hard road ahead and some very tough times but the arrival of his baby in October will be a spur and give him strength to fight hard," he said.
"The morning after he received the shitty news I rang Jess to see how they were and she said they were laying in bed and Sean was reading up on good Glossectomy out comes," Stephen wrote. "He then said 'come on Jess we know what is happening now let's get up and deal with it.'
Stephen also also admitted that Sean was "embarrassed, humbled but so grateful to receive all these well wishes".
He added: "As parents we couldn't be prouder of the way the family has pulled together."
To help support Sean and his family go to www.gofundme.com