The little boy fighting on – despite his family being told to prepare for the worst

Thomas Russell with dad David, nominated for a Best of Wearside Award
Thomas Russell with dad David, nominated for a Best of Wearside Award
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A devastated family was told to make memories of their treasured son after he was diagnosed with an extremely rare lung disease.

The parents of Thomas Russell filled their boy’s life with treasured moments after he was given a grim prognosis.

Joanne Russell is organising a charity night at Rainton Meadows Arena inspired by her 8 year old son, cancer youngster, Thomas Russell

Joanne Russell is organising a charity night at Rainton Meadows Arena inspired by her 8 year old son, cancer youngster, Thomas Russell

But battling Thomas refused to give in to the ultra-rare lung condition pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis (PPFE).

And 22 months on, ten-year-old Thomas is still fighting.

Incredibly, it’s the second time he has defied the odds.

He first made the headlines when he became one of the youngest ever people in the UK to win a battle with stage four neuroblastoma at less than two years old.

My Thomas is a happy, courageous little boy who is so special. I believe he deserves an award

Kathleen Slee, grandmother of Thomas Russell

His bravery has won Thomas a nomination for this year’s Best of Wearside Awards from his grandmother Kathleen Slee who said: “No matter how poorly he is, he never grumbles.”

He spent the first year of his life in hospital as he fought a cancer which began when he was just 11 weeks old.

His chances of survival were described as slim yet he battled through.

But the courageous little lad was hit by a second blow in December 2013 when he was diagnosed with PPFE. The Tunstall area youngster was rushed first to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and then to Great Ormond Street in London for tests.

Thomas Russell with dad David, nominated for a Best of Wearside Award

Thomas Russell with dad David, nominated for a Best of Wearside Award

His parents David, 50, a lorry driver, and Joanne, 46, the head of operations for a medical data firm, looked into the possibility of a lung transplant but were told it was not an option at the time.

Worse followed. Thomas was given a grim prognosis. Joanne told the Echo: “It was devastating for us.

“We had not expected that at all, especially when you consider what he had been through as a baby.”

Thomas’s family decided to make the most of the time their little boy had left.

Thomas Russell with dad David, nominated for a Best of Wearside Award

Thomas Russell with dad David, nominated for a Best of Wearside Award

“I stopped work, my husband stopped work and we had the time of our lives,” said Joanne. “We went to Spain and we focused all our lives around that six months.

“But six months came and went and we thought ‘what is going on here?’”

Thomas was showing his amazing fighting spirit once more and he is still beating the odds with the help of steroids and medication.

He has even managed to return to lessons at St Mary’s School in Meadowside two afternoons a week.

Grandmother Kathleen Slee said: “When you ask how he is, he responds ‘I am fine. Stop fussing’. He is always happy and has the most amazing, cute smile.”

The grateful family set up the Thomas Russell Cancer Trust Fund to raise money for the hospitals which supported their little boy - and for research into childhood cancer.

Joanne is hoping the total reaches £100,000 after a charity ball at the Stadium of Light this weekend.

In the meantime, Thomas becomes the latest fantastic entry in this year’s Best of Wearside Awards held in association with Vantec Europe Ltd.

Category sponsors are Calsonic, Gentoo, Martinos, TWR and UK Asbestos.

The grand finale will be held at the Stadium of Light on Thursday, November 19, and we are hoping to nominate some truly deserving people as long as you put them in the running for honours.

To nominate, fill in the nomination form on this page or visit http://www.jpne-events.co.uk/