Tragic death of Doncaster boy, 14, leads to hospice cash campaign

Youngster Joseph Smyth was a popular Doncaster teenager who loved his football.

Known affectionately to his pals as Jobo, he was a keen Manchester United fan, regarded by family friends as a kind, polite and shy youngster, 

Joseph Smyth, of Toll Bar, died of cancer aged 15. His mum is raising money for the hospice which cared for him

Joseph Smyth, of Toll Bar, died of cancer aged 15. His mum is raising money for the hospice which cared for him

But when he was 13, Joseph and and his family, from Toll Bar, were shaken to their foundations.

The family had been away in Surrey while mum Tracey had an operation at the time, near where many members of her family live. They idea was they would be able to help her recuperate.

But while they were there, Joseph started to get pains in his his legs.

Tracey took him to an NHS walk-in centre for a medic to check him out. It was initially thought it may be something to do with ligaments, and he took paracetamol.

Tracey Smyth, of Toll Bar, is raising money for the hospice which cared for her son,  Joseph Smyth,  who died of cancer aged 15.

Tracey Smyth, of Toll Bar, is raising money for the hospice which cared for her son, Joseph Smyth, who died of cancer aged 15.

But the next weekend, it came back, leaving him crying in pain. This time his mum took him to A&E, where the doctors carried out an ultrasound scan. Concerned, they sent him to one of the hospitals in London.

In April 2017, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which affects the bones or the tissues around them – Ewing Sarcoma.

He was sent for a trial treatment in America, heading to Florida for pioneering Proton Beam Therapy.

It shrank the tumour, and doctors replaced part of Joseph’s bone and his hip.

Joseph Smyth, of Toll Bar, died of cancer aged 15. His mum is raising money for the hospice which cared for him

Joseph Smyth, of Toll Bar, died of cancer aged 15. His mum is raising money for the hospice which cared for him

Initially they thought all the cancer had gone – but it later emerged some had reached his lungs.

Mum Tracey said: “We thought it was going to be the all clear – but instead it went from being curable to treatable.

“He was given a different sort of chemotherapy, and that seemed to be working for two cycles. Then it started growing again

“Joseph refused to give up the fight, and had another round of chemo.”

But there was nothing that could be done to stop the cancer.

And Joseph was transferred to the Shooting Star Chase hospice in Guildford, in Surrey, for palliative care –  treatment focused on keeping him as comfortable as possible for his last weeks.

The care he was given at a devastatingly difficult time touched Joseph’s family.

At first, they did not want to use the hospice – but they visited it on the advice of doctors – and immediately knew it was the place for him to go.

“The people were fantastic,” said Tracey. “It was peaceful and calm, and Joseph was exceptionally well looked after.

“There was a doctor on call at all times, and if he needed anything, it was there straight away, with no waiting.

“All the hospice wants you to do is spend time with your child, and they take away all the outside pressures.”

Dad Stephen is from a family of 15, and Tracey is one of four, but family members allowed to stay.

During the final few days, Stephen and Tracey were given a flat on the site so they could spend as much time as they needed. Space was also available for other relatives.

Joseph finally lost his battle against the cancer on August 1. He was aged just 14.

He was brought back to Doncaster for a funeral attended by more than 1,000 mourners,  many of them wearing Manchester United shirts with the name ‘Jobo’ on the back.

Pupils and teachers at Joseph’s former school, Toll Bar Primary, stood outside the school and released balloons in his memory as the funeral procession passed by.

“No one is ever going to forget Joseph,” said Tracey. “A lot of his friends have said he is the bravest boy they know.”

Joseph is from a religious family, and his father is the pastor of the Light and Life Church in Askern.

Tracey said her son's Christian faith kept him calm during the his last days.

She said: “He loved his church and when he found out nothing more could be done for him he had such a peace through his belief in God.”

He developed an interest in drawing before his death. Tracey said his skills just clicked.

She said: “I don’t know if he just started to see the world in a different way – but the pictures he drew will be treasured by us for ever.”

Raising cash in memory of Joseph

While Joseph was being looked after in the Shooting Star Chase Hospice during the hot summer, it struggled to cope with the high temperatures.

His family tried to find a portable air conditioning unit to rent while he was there, but could not find one.

So Joseph’s family started  a fundraising campaign to bring in enough money to buy 10 air conditioning units for the site – one for each bedroom and for the kitchen area.

They set themselves a target of just over £40,000. The figure raised already stands at over £50,000. Now they plan to use the extra money for refurbishments at the hospice. Fundraising is still going on, but the air conditioning is now due to be fitted in January.

A fundraiser is due to take place in Doncaster on November 8, at the Earl of Doncaster.

It will feature an afternoon tea, a fashion show, and a charity auction, of items donated by a number of Doncaster firms. It is already sold out.

Thousands have already been raised by friends from the Light and Life Church across the UK, and from friends and relatives in the gypsy and traveller community across the country.

“I decided I wanted to raise money for the hospice when we lost Joseph,” said Tracey. “Doing this has kept me busy and has been therapeutic for me. It has been my counselling.”

Tracey has raised money for MacMillan Cancer Care every year in the past, but this year is concentrating her efforts on her hospice appeal

To donate in Joseph’s memory, log onto https://www.gofundme.com/mfkne-joseph-smith