BRAVE Thomas Smith has spent more time in hospital than the classroom since he was diagnosed with a rare cancer.
The 13-year-old, from High Barnes, was left devastated when he was told by doctors he had anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
The condition, which accounts for about one in 50 of all cancer cases, affects the lymphatic system – a network of vessels which form part of the body’s immune system.
But after undergoing a six-month course of gruelling chemotherapy since diagnosis in March and battling its side-effects, the pupil at Thornhill School is now in remission.
He is back at home with parents Melanie Pounder and William Smith, 42.
Mum Melanie, 39, said: “We just couldn’t believe it when we were told the news about the cancer. He had a lump in his neck and went to the doctor for a check-up.
“We knew that something was wrong, but we just didn’t expect that.
“It is bad enough for any child of 12 to be told they have cancer, but then to have to go through six months of chemotherapy is almost unbearable.
“Thomas has been through so much, but he has dealt with it all.
“He has taken everything in his stride.”
Despite his ordeal, Thomas refused the option of a phased return to school and insisted on attending every lesson once his treatment at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary was successfully completed.
Melanie said: “I think the hardest part for him was the loss of his hair as he went through chemotherapy, but he even seemed to cope with that really well. I think he just wanted to get everything back to normal as soon as possible.
“He was given the ‘all clear’ in September and went back to school pretty much as soon as he could in November.
“He was able to have lessons in the RVI at its Newcastle Bridges School and he had a lot of support from Thornhill so he wouldn’t fall too far behind.
“We’re all very proud of him.”
Thomas’ teachers have also been astounded by his courage and dedication.
Mark Leadbeater, his head of year, said: “I remember on one of the first occasions that his mum updated me on his illness. She said he was keen to know the results of his school exams. I was astounded that he was fighting a potentially lethal illness and his main concern was the results of his exams.
“Indeed, it was clear from the outset that Thomas was determined not to miss any work at all.”
Thomas is among the young achievers to be short-listed for this year’s Young Achievers Awards.
Mr Leadbeater, who nominated Thomas for the award, said: “His courage and commitment to school life and learning is just amazing.”
The awards, which were launched in 1992, highlight and celebrate the achievements of young people in Sunderland.
Organised by Sunderland City Council’s Youth Development Group, the awards pay tribute to young people who make a significant contribution to family, school and community life.
Winners will be recognised at a ceremony at the Stadium of Light on March 10.
The awards are sponsored by the Echo, Nike UK/Ireland, Nissan, SAFC Foundation, The R&B Group, Metro Radio, Arts Centre Washington, Sunderland Youth Parliament, the National Glass Centre, Gentoo Sunderland, Northumbrian Water, Sunderland City Governors Association and vinvolved (Springboard).