WHEN Sheffield schoolboy Andrew Hill was 15 years old, he was told he would be dead within a year.
“The diagnosis came two days before Christmas,” Andrew, now 17, told The Star.
“The doctors said I had lung cancer and they gave me a year to live.”
Nearly two years later the Silverdale School pupil has confounded doctors’ predictions. He has responded well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the cancer in his lungs is in remission and he has big plans for the future.
“All along I have just wanted everyone to treat me as a normal person - I don’t want anything different, or to be treated as a special case.”
But despite his modesty, Andrew is most definitely an extraordinary young man.
After six months of chemotherapy, just over a year ago, he sat his GCSEs and gained 10 A*s, an A and a B.
He is predicted to get three As in his A-levels and has applied to study engineering at Durham University.
His teachers nominated him for a prestigious national award which celebrates the achievements of sixth formers who excel at school.
At a glitzy ceremony in London Andrew was presented with an award by Pure Potential, an independent organisation which tries to raise the aspirations of state school pupils to match those in the private sector.
Andrew said: “I’ve always tried to make as little of my illness as possible, but it’s nice to know that people have recognised that it has dominated the last couple of years of my life, that it has been quite hard.”
In October 2009 Andrew, who lives in Ecclesall with mum Catherine and dad Duncan, had a recurring cough.
“The doctors thought it was a chest infection and on the third trip to the GP they sent me for an X-ray at the Children’s Hospital because they thought I might have a collapsed lung,” he said.
“The X-ray showed something in my lungs. I was in hospital for three weeks. Then, just before Christmas, they told me it was lung cancer and that I had a year to live.
“I have never smoked. And they told me that even if I had smoked every day since I was born, I still wouldn’t have been exposed to enough to give me lung cancer.”
The tumour is so rare in someone Andrew’s age that the doctors had only two previous recorded cases to refer to.
“At the time it wasn’t that bad. I just buried my head in the treatment and my work. I had exams in the January so I was working for that.
“It only really came home when I walked into the exam hall. Everyone was looking at me, not having seen me for two months. I was stick thin.”
He asked teachers to tell his friends about his illness.
“I knew I couldn’t hide it from them and I didn’t want anyone to make a fuss.
“They’ve been amazing. Everyone has just done exactly what I wanted. They’ve not pretended there’s nothing going on, but they’ve treated me as a normal 17-year-old and given me the same stick as everyone else.”
He has unstinting gratitude for his teachers, but his highest praise goes to the Weston Park Teenage Cancer Trust, who have looked after him since he transferred from the Children’s Hospital at 16.
“The support I have had has been amazing. Being around people my own age, people going through the same thing, was very important.”
“The cancer is so rare that the doctors don’t really know what’s going to happen. But it’s not growing and it’s not spreading. As long as nothing is happening, that’s a good thing.
“I feel as I’ve come through it remarkably unscathed.”