A brave teenager who is facing a two-and-a-half year battle to combat leukaemia has been hailed as an inspiration to others.
Jade Petrie, 13, a pupil at Banovallum School in Horncastle, was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukaemia in November 2012.
She has already undergone five blood transfusions, three platelet transfusions and taken a range of chemotherapy drugs. Because her body struggles to fight infections naturally, on-going treatment will include bone marrow aspirates and lumbar punctures, as well as regular chemotherapy sessions.
Some of the main effects of the treatment have caused Jade’s hair to fall out, short-term diabetes, extreme tiredness and nausea.
Together with her parents Andre and Helen, Jade has spent long periods at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and Lincoln County Hospital.
Nicki Shore, headteacher at Banovallum, said: “Jade is very, very brave. Her courage and commitment is an inspiration to everyone.
“Despite everything she has been through - and is going through - she never complains and has never missed a single deadline at school.”
Jade, who lives with her parents in Coningsby, delivered an emotional speech about her condition at a school assembly.
In an exclusive interview with the News, she said: “I don’t think I’m brave. I just want to be treated like an ordinary person.
“When they told me I had leukaemia, it was scary. I didn’t know anything about it but everyone has been brilliant. I’ve had so much help.
“It has been hard at times. I try to stay positive and think of the day when all the treatment will be over.
“There are a lot of days when I don’t want to go through it all. But then I think of all the little children running around the cancer ward as if nothing is wrong. They are the brave ones. They are my inspiration.”
Jade and her parents have decided to speak out in a bid to encourage other people to seek an early diagnosis.
Mum, Helen explained: “Jade was always a healthy child but suddenly she was extremely tired - and very pale.
“She could sleep for 12 or 13 hours at night - and then again in the day. That wasn’t like her at all.
“We’d just moved to Horncastle and thought it was the pressure of making new friends and starting a new school.
“She didn’t get any better. I took her to the doctors and that same evening, we were in hospital. They did all the tests straightaway. We were lucky because the earlier the condition is diagnosed the better.”
Dad, Andre, works at RAF Coningsby and the family had moved to the area from RAF Leuchars in Scotland.
Andre said: “Jade had only been at Banovallum for three weeks but the school has been absolutely brilliant. We can’t thank them enough.
“Jade’s also got some great friends at the school and they’ve been a huge help. There are always there for her.”
Jade’s treatment is due to finish in July 2015, although she will still face monthly check-ups for several years.
The school decided not to take part in Children in Need this year and inspired by an idea from Jade, they organised a special fundraising day for the children’s oncology ward at the Queen’s Medical Centre instead. That took place on Friday with teachers dressing up as doctors and nurses and pupils wearing pyjamas.
Anyone who wants to make a donation to the fund should contact the school.
WHAT IS LEUKEMIA?
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside most bones.
When people are healthy, bone marrow makes white blood cells which helps your body fight infection, red blood cells that carry oxygen and platelets which help your blood clot.
When you have leukemia, the bone marrow starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells. They don’t do the work of normal cells and grow faster.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LEUKEMIA?
There are four main types - acute lymphoblastic, acute myelogenous, chronic lymphocytic, chronic myelogenous.
WHAT CAUSES LEUKEMIA?
Experts don’t know although some things are known to increase the risk including exposure to radiation and exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene. People who have had chemotherapy to treat other forms of cancer can be at risk, as can anyone with Down syndrome or other genetic problems.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
They vary but common signs are fever and night sweats, headaches, bruising or bleeding easily, bone or joint pain, a swollen or painful belly from an enlarged spleen, swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck or groin, prone to infections, feeling tired or weak, losing weight and not feeling hungry.