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Diagnosed with cancer at 3, brave Michael is now star pupil


A BOY who battled leukaemia and serious bouts of depression, all before the age of ten, left primary school this week with a glowing report from teachers.

Despite having been diagnosed with the cancer just days before his fourth birthday, Michael Monfries has gone on to score impressive SAT results during his time at St James the Great Catholic School, in Thornton Heath.

According to his mother, Deborah Monfries, 53, the school has gone out of its way to help her son overcome every obstacle in his way.

After being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2006, Michael, of Galpins Road in Thornton Heath, fought for his life at Great Ormond Street Hospital and then spent nearly three years undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

There were times when Mrs Monfries did not think her son would survive, but this week she swelled with pride at how much he had achieved, including a Level 4 in his Maths SAT.

She said: "Michael has been through a really tough time, but the school has always been there for him.

"They have gone above and beyond time and time again."

After Michael was diagnosed with leukaemia, his brain swelled and he went into cardiac arrest.

He spent almost a month in hospital, but the little fighter never gave up.

Eventually he recovered enough to return to school, where he had fallen behind his classmates.

Treatment, including chemotherapy and blood transfusions, took its toll physically and emotionally. He suffered from depression and became withdrawn from his family and friends.

"Michael was like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," said Mrs Monfries.

"At one time he would be good, then very quiet and later he would be happy.

"He thought he shouldn't have survived, that he should have died.

"He became paranoid and thought everyone was laughing at him because of the tube in his nose.

"He went through a lot, but the school was there for him. At lunch times he just sat in the corner, so they put in extra support for him.

"Even though the Government only pays for 12 hours, the school supported with one-to-one help for more than 24 hours a week, so there was someone there for him.

"That was above and beyond – they didn't need to do that."

Michael, who was left with minor brain damage following his illness, lost his love for football and was unwilling to study.

"After he recovered the hardest thing was to get him to sit down and do his work," said Mrs Monfries.

"But his teachers have worked very hard and he has done really well. I was shocked when I heard he got a Level 4 in Maths.

"To get that, coming from where he was, shows dedication from his teachers because at first we had to get a counsellor to convince him to study."

Staff at St James the Great have been in regular contact with The John Fisher School, where Michael is due to start in September, to ensure his big move goes smoothy.

Mrs Monfries said: "I thought that was really good of them, because at most schools pupils leave and their old schools forget all about them.

"I'm nervous but I'm also excited. Michael's nervous too, but if he can make it through leukaemia he can achieve anything."

Diagnosed with cancer at 3, brave Michael is now star pupil

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