North East Connected

Remarkable Josie’s A Level legacy to brother

The inspirational sister of a popular schoolboy who died of a brain tumour aged just 15 is set to continue his legacy of pushing on through adversity after achieving top grades in her A Levels.

Josie Todd, of Cambois, Blyth, said her brother Connor would be proud of her success – but probably wouldn’t have admitted it.

Connor died last October having been diagnosed with medulloblastoma as a 13-year-old. He underwent surgery and months of gruelling treatment but never lost his fighting spirit, nor his sense of humour. He also raised over £17,000 for charities to support young people with cancer.

Josie, 18, who secured an A* in business and A grades in product design and English literature at Bede Academy, in Blyth, and has a place at Newcastle University to read business management, has already taken up his mission.

Andrew Thelwell, principal of Bede Academy, explained: “Josie is a remarkable young lady. She has worked tirelessly to fundraise for children’s cancer charities as well as lead initiatives such as One More Step to encourage students and staff to undertake challenges and push themselves towards their goals, alongside working so hard to achieve her grades.

“She has set a real example of love, courage and humility for all staff and students to follow. We will continue to be inspired by her and wish her all the very best going forward.”

Josie said the past two years had “been a lot of hard work” and that her choice of degree course supported her future plans.

“What I want to do with my life, especially after losing my brother, is to inspire and lead other people. I want to go into business management to do that and find a vision to help people follow it and do something good.

“I have done public speaking for Young Lives Versus Cancer and at school and the One More Step challenge was about inspiring people like my brother did. It’s about pushing yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do outside your comfort zone. I did running; I’m not a runner so it was a big challenge for me but I was inspired by Connor who was totally bedbound from his treatment but set himself a challenge to push himself beyond what he or any of us expected him to do and that’s the legacy I want to follow.

“There were a lot of times when I wanted to give up and that’s where One More Step comes in. I have always had the potential to achieve with hard work but when Connor was ill and passed away I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it. My biggest fear has been being held back because of circumstances and I wanted to prove to people and myself I could achieve.

“There are days when you don’t feel like getting up in the morning and pushing yourself to do it is the hardest thing. Revising and even coming into school was horrible at the time so this means so much more than just getting into university; it’s proving what I am capable of.

“I didn’t want to be held back by what happened. It’s really easy to sit back and use what’s happened as an excuse, and it is a viable excuse, but I wanted to face it head on and push through.

“Connor wasn’t as academic as me and he probably would have called me a flipping swot with a few more expletives, but he would be proud in his own way. He would have joked that he wasn’t but deep down he would be.”

Mum Clair, who has two other older daughters Amy and Chloe, said the family was still “up and down emotionally”. “People think it’s months after now, that things are back to normal, but the grief doesn’t get any smaller. But I know Connor wouldn’t want us to sit and cry all the time, although it’s very easy to do that.”

Josie added: “I think some siblings get overlooked sometimes. What happened to Connor has shaped my every day; everything has totally changed. My childhood ended pretty much the moment he got ill. The impact on siblings gets forgotten I want to do what I can to help change that.

“You have to make a choice. You can fall into the grief or try and push through and make the best of every day. The pain doesn’t get easier, but you get used to it being there.”

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