A BRAVE youngster who spent two years learning to walk again after a battle with leukaemia is dancing for joy after passing a ballet exam with flying colours.
Lucie Russell was confined to a wheelchair after rounds of debilitating cancer treatment.
The eight-year-old, from Darlington, has delighted doctors and her family with her progress since being told she was in remission, in May 2011.
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She joined the town's Pierremont School of Dance before being diagnosed and had to quit after falling ill.
Such was her determination to dance, that she rejoined 15 months ago and has never looked back.
Proud grandmother, Elaine Russell, said Lucie struggled to keep up with her fellow dancers when she first rejoined.
But her determination has seen her not just catch up, but earn a 'highly commended' mark from a 20-minute practical exam she sat recently, along with other dance school members.
Mrs Russell described Lucie's progress as 'inspirational' and said she hopes the youngster's story will give strength to other youngsters battling illness.
"Lucie could not walk at all after her battle with leukaemia, she spent almost two years in a wheelchair.
"After she finished her treatment, she spent a good year getting back on her feet and another year before she was ready to have a go at dancing.
"When I first took her to the dance school, it broke my heart that she couldn't do the same things as the other children.
"The other kids just accepted her as she was."
Lucie practised her moves every day and was soon dancing at the same level as her classmates.
Mrs Russell paid tribute to the tutors at the dance school for the way they looked after Lucie and others in the group.
"The teachers have been amazing, it's no mean feat to get kids through a 20-minute exam at the age of eight.
"To get them to concentrate for that long is amazing and it's a huge achievement for Lucy, the other kids and the dance school."
Lucie is now working towards her first big dance performance, at Polam Hall School, in October.
Mrs Russell added: "Lucie's positive outlook is what's got her through, when she sets her heart on something, she goes for it.
"She is an inspiration, we are all so proud of her."