Posted on Wednesday 21 August 2019

in News

Teenager who took GCSE exams in hospital while on treatment to get his results

Brandon, 16, received a shock diagnosis of lymphoblastic lymphoma just before he was due to sit his GCSE exams this year. With the support of his CLIC Sargent Young Adult Community Worker Beth, Brandon was able to take his exams during treatment and is expecting the results today.  Here, Brandon shares his story.

Brandon sat four of his GCSE exams in his hospital room after he was diagnosed with cancer shortly before his exams were coming up.

“It was at the end of March, early April that I started getting night-time sweats and kept collapsing. I really just felt like I was dying every time I collapsed.

“I went to the doctors and they said it was probably hay fever or because I am tall that I was standing up to quick. But after a few times of visiting the GP one doctor listened to my chest and sent me for an X-ray. The results showed there was something not good and so I was sent for more scans and we were taken upstairs at Southampton Hospital which is when we were told it’s probably cancer.”

Brandon was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, aged 15. He had tumours in his lymph nodes and lumps on his head and in his kidneys where the cancer was growing. It was in his blood too.

“It was six days before my 16th birthday and just before my GCSEs. It was supposed to be my birthday and my first time getting on my motorbike. Instead I was in hospital.

“They didn’t tell us what stage the cancer was at, but it would have been at stage four. The moment they told us it was cancer, in a strange way I was happy, because I then had the reason and answer to why things were happening. But then I saw my parents’ facial expressions and I’d never seen them like that before. Seeing their faces changed how I felt and I realised it was bad.

“The treatment has made me be really sick and feel very tired. Mentally it is really challenging and hard. It makes you stressed out and moody at people when you are trying not to be, but you can’t help it.”

After Brandon was diagnosed, he had to stay in hospital for six weeks, during which time his GCSE exams were due to be sat.

Brandon said: “My GCSEs were just a few weeks away and at first I didn’t even think about it. But then people around me all starting talking about my exams and making plans for what I should do. I was given the choice to pick what exams I wanted to sit and so I chose to sit two of each of my exams to get me enough marks to get me the grades that I would need.”

Brandon chose to sit six of his English, maths and geography exams in hospital, but when it came to it, he was only able to sit four of his exams due to him feeling too unwell.

“They made me feel OK about it in hospital because we could leave it until the day to decide if I was well enough or not to sit them. On the morning when I was supposed to sit one of the exams, I just felt so tired and sick from chemotherapy that I just couldn’t do it. On another day, I had a scan which clashed with the exam time, so I chose to have the scan.

“On another day, I had two exams in one day and I was shaking and felt sick and completely horrible – but I still finished the exams.

“If I fail English and maths I will be able to re sit them. For my other GCSEs I did lots of coursework so they will go towards my grades and hopefully they can take some of my marks from mock exams I did before I was ill.”

Brandon was able to sit his exams in hospital with the help and support of his CLIC Sargent Young Adult Community Worker Beth, who made all the arrangements with the school and hospital. CLIC Sargent works to limit the impact cancer has on children and young people beyond their health.

Brandon said: “We met with CLIC Sargent and Beth when she came in to talk to us about my exams and about grants and she explained all the different ways CLIC Sargent would be able to help us and we saw her a lot.

“Beth was there when my teacher visited and she helped us sort everything out for sitting my GCSEs and explained how everything would work.

“I sat my exams in my hospital room, which was actually amazing because I could concentrate so much more than I probably would have been able to in a big hall. I just felt better about it all sitting there.”

Brandon gets his GCSE results today, Thursday, September 22, but he has other results he is waiting for too.

“I have to have a high dose of chemotherapy for nine months now and then I will be taking tablets for two years after that. But I find out on Thursday, the same day I get my GCSE results if they will need to change my treatment as I get some results for a bone marrow test on Wednesday too.

“During school, obviously GCSEs was the biggest thing I would think about. But since all of this has happened, I’m just happy with everything how it is and to be here and for things not to be worse.”

Next year, Brandon hopes to get back to his ambition to study engineering.

“My plan before I got cancer was to earn some money with a job after my GCSEs this summer and I was going to go to college in September to study engineering and then on to university. I want to work on massive boat container ships and to do engineering with that. I can’t go to college now in September but I will go in a year’s time, and it is still what I want and plan to do and achieve all of those things.”

Brandon’s mum, Shona, said she will be proud of her son no matter what his exam results are.

Shona said: “When Brandon was first diagnosed and the conversations were being had about his GCSEs and exams, I was just annoyed and shocked that he was having to make decisions about the exams at that time. I was angry it couldn’t be delayed.

“It was kind of a now or never situation for him to sit his exams and we didn’t really have much of a choice. He had worked so hard on his subjects and loved geography and so he decided to sit his exams because he didn’t want to miss out on it.

“I was really proud he sat the exams and he pushed through. He had invigilators come to the hospital and CLIC Sargent helped sort it all out. It was so fantastic how Beth helped; CLIC Sargent took all the stress away, sorting it all out for us.

“As parents we just couldn’t think about anything else but Brandon getting better, we didn’t want to have to think about his GCSEs and so CLIC Sargent really helped us, taking all of that away for us and getting it sorted. It was quite a relief to hear it was all in motion and we didn’t have to worry. And it wasn’t just the GCSEs Beth supported us with, it was everything else too. She was such a massive help.

“It goes without saying but as parents we are blown away with Brandon that he even sat the exams. We are so, so proud of him. The strength he has shown even to think about sitting his exams, let alone going through with it. He has done amazing. With regards to his results, we don’t care what he gets; the results don’t show how well he has done in spite of everything he has faced. We are proud of him no matter what grades he gets.”

Notes to editors

For more information about CLIC Sargent please contact Jessica Rees at jessica.rees@clicsargent.org.uk or call 0117 311 2659.

About cancer in children and young people

Today, 12 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

About CLIC Sargent

When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk

Note to sub editors

Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.

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