This morning’s viewers praise teen with cystic fibrosis who says dance is a ‘drug’ that saved his life
This morning, viewers greeted a teen with cystic fibrosis who claims dance “saved his life” as an “inspiration.”
Dubbed as a real life Billy Elliot, Tom Oakley, 18, from Liverpool fell in love with ballet at the age of seven, describing it as a ‘drug’ he can’t live without.
He admitted that his condition often ‘gasps and puffs’ and coughs up phlegm during classes, but it ‘never stops him’ – and he has just won a place at the prestigious Rambert School, a ballet and contemporary dance academy in Twickenham , in 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 for proud mum Sarah and This Morning presenters Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes today.
This morning, viewers greeted teen Tom Oakley, who has cystic fibrosis and claims dance 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 for 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, I got tears in my eyes 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 percent cut in arts education needs serious reconsideration!!! Dance to keep Tom alive and bring him to @Rambertdance.”
When he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, doctors expected Tom would not live to be 40.
After being told to stay active to improve his condition – which affects one in 2,500 and causes mucus in the lungs and digestive system, causing excruciating pain – Tom tried all kinds of sports as a child.
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 told him he got “bored quickly.”
But when she and her husband James took him to a dance class, after watching him stroll through the house to Beyonce, she said it was like he was “walking into another world.”
Tom added: ‘It was strange because at first I thought ‘I’m not going to like ballet, I’m going to dance in the street and be a real manly man’ I came into ballet class and I thought, “I’m really enjoying this”.
“I think nine times out of ten I think oh my God I can’t do this, in a class there will be times when I’m gasping and puffing and coughing up all this mucus, but it never stops me, I always keep going , so I think there have definitely been times like that, but I never stopped.”
In the upcoming documentary, Tom said that 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 I can’t live. I literally cannot live without dance.’
When he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, doctors expected Tom would not live to be 40
In an interview with the Sunday TimesSarah said discovering dance was ‘a bit of a game-changer’, adding: ‘Before that he was very sick all the time, in and out of the hospital, really unwell, pale, not eating enough, struggling with his breathing and bowels .’
By age 12, he had dropped out of mainstream school and now spends up to 60 hours a week dancing, and has not been hospitalized since.
The fact that he’s moving so much now means Tom is consuming between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day – on top of a maximum of 100 tablets. Swallowing his pills all at once has become his ‘party trick’.
Sarah told Eamonn and Ruth, “It makes 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 take them in, and also because he moves so much, he has to take in extra calories, and the more he moves, you have to take extra salt.”
By age 12, Tom had dropped out of mainstream school and now spends up to 60 hours a week dancing, and has not been hospitalized since.
After seeing him perform on the Billie Eilish song Ocean Eyes, Sarah said, “Every time he dances I just want to cry. He is great’
Tom added: “You can never tell how much I eat, I’m so skinny, 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 with Rambert.
He described the application process as “very taxing,” admitting, “There were so many times when I was tripping myself, I’m not going to do this, I’m incapable.”
He submitted 10 videos, all of which were filmed in his three-bedroom townhouse during the lockdown, saying it took an hour and a half to get through to him when he got the news that he had been hired.
After seeing him perform on the Billie Eilish song Ocean Eyes, Sarah said, “Every time he dances I just want to cry. He is great.’
The Boy Who Can’t Stop Dancing can be seen on Channel 4 on August 3 at 11pm.