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This Morning viewers praise teen with cystic fibrosis who says dance is a ‘drug’ that saved his life

This Morning viewers have hailed a teenager with cystic fibrosis who claims dance ‘saved his life’ an ‘inspiration’.

Dubbed a real life Billy Elliot, Tom Oakley, 18, from Liverpool fell in love with ballet at the age of seven and describes it as a ‘drug’ that he cannot live without.

He admitted his condition often leaves him ‘huffing and puffing’ and coughing up mucus during lessons, but it ‘never stops’ him – and he’s just won a place at the prestigious Rambert School, a ballet and contemporary dance academy in Twickenham, south west London. 

Tom’s story is being told in a new Channel 4 documentary – The Boy Who Can’t Stop Dancing – and he delivered an incredible performance in front of proud mother Sarah and This Morning hosts Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes today.

This Morning viewers have hailed teenager Tom Oakley, who has cystic fibrosis and claims dance has saved his life, an 'inspiration'

This Morning viewers have hailed teenager Tom Oakley, who has cystic fibrosis and claims dance has saved his life, an ‘inspiration’

Tom's story is being told in a new Channel 4 documentary - The Boy Who Can’t Stop Dancing - and he delivered an incredible performance in front of proud mother Sarah and This Morning hosts Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes today

Tom’s story is being told in a new Channel 4 documentary – The Boy Who Can’t Stop Dancing – and he delivered an incredible performance in front of proud mother Sarah and This Morning hosts Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes today

Viewers at home were transfixed, with many praising Tom for his incredible determination and impressive talent.

One commented: ‘Tom is amazing, made my eyes leak when he danced.’

‘What an inspiring and talented young man! Tom Oakley you are amazing. Good luck and well done,’ wrote another.

And one tweeted: ‘Tom is the perfect example of why Gavin Williamson’s proposed 50 per cent cut in arts education should be seriously reconsidered!!! Dance keeping Tom alive and taking him to @Rambertdance.’

When he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, doctors expected that Tom wouldn’t make it to his forties. 

Having been told he needed to keep active to help his condition – which affects one person in 2,500 and causes mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system, resulting in excruciating pain – Tom tried all sorts of sports as a child.

Viewers at home were transfixed, with many praising Tom for his incredible determination and impressive talent

Viewers at home were transfixed, with many praising Tom for his incredible determination and impressive talent

But he soon lost interest – something his mother Sarah put down to him getting ‘bored easily’.

But when she and husband James took him to a dance class, after watching him groove around the house to Beyonce, she said it was like he ‘walked into a different world’.

Tom added: ‘It was strange because, originally I thought, “I’m not going to like ballet, I’m gonna do street dancing and be a proper manly man”. I got into the ballet lesson and I was thinking, “I’m really enjoying this”.

‘I think nine times out of 10 I think, oh my God I can’t do this, in a lesson there’ll be times where I’m huffing and puffing and coughing up all this mucus, but it never stops me, I always keep going, so I think there’s definitely been times like that, but I’ve never stopped.’ 

In the upcoming documentary, Tom said dance is now ‘essentially my drug for recreational use’: ‘If I don’t have it, I get sad, but if I don’t have it as well, I can’t live. I literally cannot live without dance.’ 

When he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, doctors expected that Tom wouldn't make it to his forties

When he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, doctors expected that Tom wouldn’t make it to his forties

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Sarah said discovering dance was ‘a bit of a game-changer’, adding: ‘Before then he was really sick all the time, in and out of hospital, really unwell, pale, not eating enough, struggling with his breathing and bowels.’

By the age of 12 he had left mainstream school and now spends up to 60 hours a week dancing, and has not been admitted to hospital since. 

The fact he now does so much exercise means Tom consumes between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day – on top of up to 100 tablets. Taking his pills all in one go has become his ‘party trick’.

Sarah told Eamonn and Ruth: ‘It’s making light of what you have to go through. He eats all the time and Dad spends hours in the kitchen every day.

‘Even with the CREON [a drug Tom takes for his cystic fibrosis], he can only absorb so much fat, so you lose some calories, you don’t actually absorb those, and also because he does so much exercise, he’s then got to take on extra calories, and the more exercise he does you have to take extra salt.’

By the age of 12 Tom had left mainstream school and now spends up to 60 hours a week dancing, and has not been admitted to hospital since

By the age of 12 Tom had left mainstream school and now spends up to 60 hours a week dancing, and has not been admitted to hospital since

After watching him perform to the Billie Eilish track Ocean Eyes, Sarah said: 'Every time he dances I just want to cry. He's amazing'

After watching him perform to the Billie Eilish track Ocean Eyes, Sarah said: ‘Every time he dances I just want to cry. He’s amazing’

Tom added: ‘You can never tell how much I eat, I’m skinny as, I eat 4,000, 5,000 calories a day and I’m built like a twig.’ 

Tom, currently a student at Rare Studio Liverpool, is the first dancer with cystic fibrosis to win a place at Rambert.

He described the application process as ‘very taxing’, admitting: ‘There were so many times when I was tripping myself going, I’m not going to do this, I’m not capable.’

He submitted 10 videos, all of which were filmed in his three-bedroom terraced home during lockdown, and said it took an hour and a half to sink in when he got the news he’d been accepted. 

After watching him perform to the Billie Eilish track Ocean Eyes, Sarah said: ‘Every time he dances I just want to cry. He’s amazing.’

The Boy Who Can’t Stop Dancing is on Channel 4 at 11pm on August 3.

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