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Jimmy Simons, from Eastrop, has fought rare form of cancer since the age of 10
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A BASINGSTOKE teenager has defied all odds to achieve a top set of GCSE grades after being diagnosed with a form of terminal cancer so rare, he could be the only person in the world to have it.
Jimmy Simons, of London Road, Eastrop, has fought the NK-T Cell Lymphoma illness since he was 10.
Only three other people, who were elderly Japanese and Chinese men, have ever suffered from in the last 28 years, and the longest survivor died after just nine months following treatment.
But the inspirational teenager now dreams of becoming a doctor and helping other cancer sufferers.
Despite missing most of his time at Bishop Challoner Catholic Secondary School, determined Jimmy studied in hospital and at home and managed to achieve an incredible set of results, bagging A*s in physics and chemistry, As in biology, maths and English language and a B in English literature.
He said: “There's nothing else that I want to do that means as much to me than becoming a doctor.”
The teenager first became ill in 2006 and it was initially thought he had glandular fever.
But tests returned negative and doctors could find nothing wrong.
His mother, Jo Smith, said: “In his medical notes I was down as the 'paranoid parent.'”
It was when Jimmy suffered a nose bleed that his mother realised something was seriously wrong.
The 43-year-old looked inside his nose and discovered a tumour. She said: “The doctors thought it was viral warts. But I wasn't prepared to wait any longer.”
Within five days the tumour was coming out of Jimmy's nose and in February 2007 after further consultation, he was given the devastating news that it was a form of cancer.
But doctors were stumped as to the type, because the tests matched nothing. Jimmy came up with his own name for the cancer, calling it Jimfungus.
Doctors across the world became involved in his treatment, and in May 2007 he was given the diagnosis that it was a type of cancer linked to glandular fever.
Ms Smith, a mother-of-five, asked for a specialist glandular fever test on both Jimmy and her daughter Courtney, who had showed similar symptoms.
Both came back positive. Courtney, 18, and the rest of the family are now awaiting genetic testing to see if they are in any way susceptible.
Meanwhile Jimmy began chemotherapy treatment immediately at Southampton General hospital and was in remission.
But the tumours returned, spreading to his throat. Jimmy was given five weeks to live and his family prepared to say goodbye.
He said: “Mum always asked me how much I wanted to know and I wanted to know everything. I was scared, I was really scared. But I wanted to make the most of the time I had left.”
Another doctor got in touch about a radiotherapy treatment he believed could help.
Ms Smith was advised not to put Jimmy through it, and to enjoy his final weeks, but she said: “I couldn't give in.”
Jimmy had radiotherapy in May 2009 and amazed doctors with his recovery.
But again his condition worsened and the tumours began growing all over his body.
Doctors suggested trying a bone marrow transplant, using the cells from his sister, Courtney, as antibodies against the cancerous cells.
But when Courtney was under anaesthetic, doctors feared her cells may too hold the same type of cancer.
Ms Smith said: “They could be transplanting cancer back into Jimmy. But he would die if he didn't have the transplant. We had to go ahead with it.”
Courtney reacted badly but the transplant, on March 9 2011, was a success for Jimmy and his tumours began disappearing immediately.
Following 21 days in isolation, Jimmy returned home in April - a timescale so short it was almost unheard of for transplant patients.
Ms Smith said: “Doctors called him a miracle boy.” Although his cancer is still terminal, doctors have no idea how long he will live because they know so little about it.
Jimmy now struggles with the side effects of the disease and the surgery and treatment he has endured, and has to follow a medical regime of 90 minutes in the morning and evening.
But Jimmy is determined to go to Queen Mary's College, and said: “I really want to help other people like me.”
Bishop Challoner deputy headteacher Andy Bazen said Jimmy was a remarkable student. He said: “He is one of a number who performed exceptionally well in spite of extreme and adverse circumstances and their courage and commitment is an inspiration.”
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