Even before COVID-19 hit, isolation was already on the cards for Voyager Point resident Thomas Lowe in 2020.
The 17-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in January last year after his mum noticed lumps around his neck in December 2019. It meant 10 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
What it didn't mean was an end to his dream of becoming a firefighter and following in the footsteps of his late-father David who served as a volunteer firefighter for the Sandy Point NSW Rural Fire Service. David passed away from lymphoma in May 2012 when Thomas was just nine-years-old.
Now in remission, Thomas has set his sights on becoming a firefighter. He will be aided by a $5000 Dare to Dream scholarship from leading national childhood cancer support charity Redkite. Funded with support of Coles, the scholarship can be put towards education, career or life goals that have been disrupted due to the impact cancer has on a child's physical and mental wellbeing.
The year-12 student, who completed work experience at Fire and Rescue NSW in 2019, intends on using the money to buy a new laptop for school, driving lessons and a gym membership.
"Throughout my 10 months of treatment, I've had very little energy and I've been in a lot of pain. I've had to isolate, not only because of COVID-19, but mainly due to my low blood counts. Cancer has also caused me to lose a lot of my strength and endurance, which are both needed to become a member of Fire and Rescue NSW," Thomas said.
"This scholarship will help me gain the strength and endurance that I have lost due to chemotherapy. The gym membership will also improve my happiness.
"I was pretty surprised and excited to get the scholarship."
Mum Christine said Thomas is a "fighter" in every sense of the word.
"His diagnosis and treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma not only meant that he was fighting a physical battle, but also fighting a highly emotional battle, knowing and remembering his dad's treatment, side effects, and eventual death - a monster of a demon to conquer," she said. "This scholarship will provide Thomas with an incredible opportunity to rebuild his future."
Since 2013, Redkite and Coles have awarded 299 Dare to Dream Scholarships of up to $5000 to support young Australians whose cancer diagnosis has put their life on hold.
Coles corporate affairs general manager Sally Fielke said: "We know how important wellness and mental wellbeing is for children seeking to achieve their goals and these scholarships help to support young cancer patients at what is an incredibly difficult period in their lives."