Brave young Oliver Smith is getting his life back on track – in more ways than one – after being officially free of cancer for a year.
The eight-year-old has swapped hospitals for racing tracks, and is now learning to drive stock cars following his recovery.
Oliver underwent his final chemotherapy treatment on March 29 last year, almost three-and-a-half years after he was first diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer affecting the blood cells.
He had to have a 30-week course of chemotherapy followed by two years of less intensive treatment.
He also had to learn to walk again after the drugs he was taking paralysed him.
Oliver will continue to have regular check-ups until he reaches adulthood.
“It was really hard at first to go so many weeks without going to the hospital,” his mum Laura, 34, said. “It was like my comfort blanket had been taken away and I would panic over every little thing. I was constantly looking out for something. Alfie still sometimes asks if Oliver is poorly. He was so used to it. If Oliver gets a cold, Alfie will ask if we have to go to hospital. That’s all he has known his whole life.”
Laura said the family still has difficult times ahead.
Next month Oliver will undergo neuro-psychology tests to look at the effects the chemo has had on his brain.
“They don’t know if there might be permanent damage,” Laura said. “A lot of it we won’t know until he gets older.
“People now think he is fine but behind closed doors it is very different. To look at him he is perfectly healthy and normal but we still have so many battles to cope with that no one else sees.
“But we can live with it all. He is here and happy and things could be a lot worse.”
In the meantime, Oliver is back at school full-time and making up for lost time.
He is now in Year 3 at Ellel St John’s Primary School, where his brother Alfie, five, has also now started.
Laura, of Rose Grove, Galgate, said: “Oliver doesn’t want to be different from his friends. He has short-term memory problems and he has to have one-to-one help at school and he hates it. But his friends don’t see him as any different. They are really good with him and just see him as Oliver.”
Oliver has become interested in cars and stock car racing, and will spend hours tinkering at the family garage with his dad Billy.
Laura said: “Oliver is different now. He will join in with other children and do things on his own as well. He was much more reserved before.
“Now we feel like we are seeing the true Oliver. He still doesn’t like to talk about his illness or acknowledge anything. I don’t think he understands how serious it was.
“He is very good at practical things. He will happily work at the garage with his dad.
“He is going to start stock car racing at Easter which is giving him a focus.
“He missed out on so much but this is now something above and beyond what other children do. He is so passionate about it and it’s so nice that he can have this time to do something like this.
“He has struggled so much at school yet he can just get in the car and drive it so it’s good that he has that thing that he is good at.
“It still worries me about his future if he is still so far behind as he gets older.
“But in my eyes he doesn’t have to achieve anything else because he lived. That’s the best thing for any mother.
“He fought cancer and he survived and that’s all I could ever possibly want.”