Thomas Heyward student survives cancer to graduate with class

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comMay 30, 2014 

Bradley Stanley graduated Friday night with 28 of his classmates from Thomas Heyward Academy, overcoming many obstacles to cross the stage.

In December 1999, Stanley was diagnosed with Langerhans histiocytosis, a rare blood disease that is difficult to control, his mother, Linda Stanley, said. As a result, Bradley's body formed bony lesions that required surgery and then treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

"I wasn't really aware of everything that was actually happening; I was just going along with it, and know that I regularly would have to go to doctors and appointments," he said.

He doesn't remember much of those treatments, just that he would tire easily and couldn't do many of the things children his age do -- he was no more than 4 years old at the time.

Then 10 years later, in December 2009, Bradley was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a high-risk form of blood cancer, curable only by a bone-marrow and stem-cell transplant, Linda Stanley said.

Bradley underwent a cord blood transplant that same month.

Since that time, he has been in remission.

During his 12 years at Thomas Heyward, his teachers have worked with the Stanley family so he would not fall behind.

"My classmates and teachers were very supportive and very willing to slow down for me at certain times," Bradley said.

He said he always knew he would graduate with his class.

"The thought of one day being able to go to college," he said, "that just seemed like an opportunity I couldn't miss out on."

His mother says he is "an inspiration for many who have learned that you cannot control life but must continue with what you have at hand."

He will attend the Savannah College of Arts and Design in the fall to study animation.

"I just want to hopefully be somewhere out there in the world in a matter of years," he said. "Who knows where I could end up? And that's what I can't wait to find out."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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