The news that Armagh schoolboy Theo Smyth is now cancer-free broke on his mum’s birthday – and it was the “best present we could have asked for”, the family have said.
Martin Smyth, Theo’s dad, told Armagh I that the family were “delighted” when they heard the news that Theo had reached the milestone in his journey.
He said: “Theo had his biopsies in early January, so we had been down to the hospital a few times and there’d been no results, so we only got the results on the first of February.
“To actually hear that it was remission, we were absolutely delighted. To top it off, that day was Caroline’s birthday, so it was the best birthday present that she could have asked for.
“For Theo to actually hear the words from a doctor that he was in remission was fantastic. I can’t describe how overjoyed we were when we heard it was remission.”
Martin added: “We were just relieved to know that over the past seven months, which have been horrendous on Theo, that it has worked and that the chemo did what the doctors intended it to do.
“It is such a big journey at that age, and especially at an age when you are aware of what’s going on. He’s been so brave and he’s had to tackle so much.”
Martin says that while Theo has passed the “biggest hurdle” in his battle, and that the family are relieved with the news, Theo still has a journey ahead.
“It was such a relief, but it’s not always the end of the road for anything,” he added. “That was his biggest hurdle and to get past it was absolutely fantastic.
“Theo will be monitored now by several different teams over the coming years. He’s also still battling infection that he took at the first phase of treatment and that’s something that will take him a while to recover from.”
Theo had got out of hospital on Christmas Eve, meaning that the family have been able to travel up and down to hospital since then.
Martin says that the support and response that the family has received since the outset of Theo’s journey has been “astounding”.
“We want to thank everybody from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “We’re just so grateful for everything that has been done for us.
“From the outset people have been so kind. The amount of people sending us messages to congratulate him that he is in remission has been really astounding. The community have been amazing and it’s times like this that you realise how good people are.
“The first five months for him were horrendous. He was really sick and he didn’t get a lot of time at home so reading the messages and all the wishes from everybody did help him and keep his spirits up.”
He also paid tribute to the staff at the children’s hospital, whom he described as “amazing”.
He said: “Theo was isolated from everybody during his time and no matter how bad a day he was having, the staff were amazing. They went above their all and more.
“There’s a special type of person to do that job, and we’re very, very lucky that we have them here in Belfast. We actually called in with the unit to let them know that he was in remission and the staff were delighted.”
Martin added that the family want to raise awareness around childhood cancer, admitting that he thought it would “never touch our door”.
He said: “It’s something that does get a lot of publicity, but we were the parents that said that would never happen to us.
“As parents then to have received the support from the charities as well is fantastic. It’s not just financial support the charities offer, it’s the emotional and practical support that they offer as well.
“If your child isn’t well and isn’t getting better, be persistent and make sure your child is checked.”
Theo’s Journey has already raised over £14,000 on GoFundMe. You can donate to the campaign here.