Amir was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia before his GCSEs. During his treatment, we supported him at Alder Hey Hospital

"I missed a lot of school and I was told I could get into sixth form based on my previous grades, but I still wanted to sit my exams for the sense of accomplishment. I sat my exams in hospital and Rob, my Youth Support Coordinator, helped set up the times around my treatment."

Taking exams in the hospital was a difficult experience. "I had stomach ulcers from the chemo and any time I ate anything I was sick. One time I literally had about five Coco Pops... I was mid exam when I shouted out 'I'm going to be sick.' I had wires in both arms and struggled to negotiate all the wires to write."

"I'm glad I did it though. I got great grades and knew I'd earned my place at college. On results day, the Teenage Cancer Trust team called my mum to see how I got on; they were all invested in my results."

It was a very different experience to my friends, but they were a lot more stressed than me when it came to getting the results as I knew I didn't need to worry about mine. 


Becky was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma during AS Levels and was treated on our unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

"I couldn't concentrate at school as I was worried. I'd got an A in my first Maths exam but after being told I needed a biopsy on the lumps in my neck, my was elsewhere. I was really shocked when I was told I had cancer. I still wanted to do as well as possible in my exams in order to carry on to A Levels. It obviously affected my studies though, as I got an E on my last Maths exam."

After 6 months of chemo, Becky learned in December 2016 that she had relapsed and needed further treatment. 

"I decided to do a foundation year at uni because I needed one A Level to get in, so I carried on studying Maths while in hospital. Luckily, my mum's a Maths teacher and she was able to teach me! There were times when I was really sick and felt tired, but it gave me something to focus on."

Becky got a C and started her foundation course at university. Unfortunately, she had another relapse and ended up needing two stem cell transplants. 

"By the second transplant, I was in my first year of my degree and I missed three months. I continued with my coursework though, and I've just found out that not only have I passed my first year, but I've also been given the all clear!"

My advice to people who aren't able to follow the path they set out is to look at your end goal and look at what other options are available. It's not the end of the world if you can't do A Levels or go to university at the same time as your friends.


When Molly was 15, she was diagnosed with metastatic Ewing's Sarcoma and was helped on our unit at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow. 

"I had chemo from January to December so I was in hospital during the end of my National 5s and the start of my Highers. Ronan, my Youth Support Coordinator, brought me the books I needed to study and helped me stay positive. The other young people on the ward were so understanding too, I felt like everyone was behind me."

"I had 5 days of continuous chemo around the time of my National 5s so I had to sit my exams in the hospital. I had a bug because my immune system was down, so I was being very sick, and I also managed to get blood all over an exam paper. I couldn't hand it in like that and had to start all over again... I had to laugh as it was so bizarre! If someone had told me before my diagnosis that I would have to redo an exam due to it being covered in blood or that I'd be sitting my exams in my PJs, I wouldn't believe them."

Despite the weirdness of sitting exams in hospital, Molly came out with great grades. "People were crying on results day when they heard I got all As."

My advice to people going through a similar thing is to know your boundaries. I was so focused on getting good results that I struggled to stop studying when I was too sick.


When Jack was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia aged 14, we supported him on our unit at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital

"I had eight months of intensive chemo and was out of school during that time. There was a teacher at the hospital and I had some tuition but it was a bit pointless. I had lots of side effects from the chemo and I was really tired. I found it difficult to motivate myself or concentrate when there were bigger things going on in my life."

"I was given the choice to drop back a year but I wanted to stay with my friends. I had to work harder than them on some bits and I still got quite tired from the maintenance chemo and had mouth ulcers. I also felt sick so I often studied at home by myself. I managed to catch up with my friends and I'm hoping to get the grades I need to do A Levels in Accounting, Economics and History."

For anyone who is worried about keeping up with their year group after missing time at school, I would say it won't be as bad as you think. Just keep trying and you will pick things up as you go. 


Hanna was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma just after finishing her mock GCSEs and was treated on our unit in Bristol

"I came out of my last mock exam and was taken straight to hospital where I was told they thought I had lymphoma. I had to decide whether I still wanted to sit GCSEs. My school said I could carry on to A Levels regardless, but I'd put so much work in that I didn't want to it go to waste."

"Hannah, my Youth Support Coordinator, helped liaise with my school to set up the exams. I had my first two exams in hospital and a teacher from my school came to invigiliate. Hannah made a sign for the door reminding people to be quiet when they were passing, which was sweet."

"I wasn't worried about my exam results as some of my friends, I just wanted to pass Maths and English so I didn't have to resit them. I went on to sit German, History and Music at A Level and I'm now waiting for my exam results."

My advice to anyone wondering whether to sit their exams or take a year out is to think about what's important to you. I love school, so I wanted to do my exams, but that might not be the right decision for everyone.