Northern Ireland

Cancer sufferer John Baxter gets top marks in GCSE exams

A County Tyrone schoolboy who was diagnosed with a brain tumour while studying for his GCSEs has "amazed" his doctors by getting 11 A*s and a B.

John Baxter, who had survived leukaemia as a toddler, found out about the malignant tumour on Boxing Day 2011.

The 16-year-old had brain surgery in January, followed by six weeks of radiotherapy in March and April.

He said he decided to take the exams because he was not going to let his illness "ruin" his GCSE studies.

The teenager, who is a is a pupil at Christian Brothers School in Omagh, was told by several doctors that it was unlikely he would be able to sit his GCSEs this summer.

However, John has previous experience of battling serious illness as he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at the age of three.

'Worrying'

He underwent three years of chemotherapy at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and at the time, his parents were told there was a chance that he could lose up to 10 IQ points as a result of the treatment.

The teenager's brain tumour was detected in December, after he suffered a fit.

He had an operation to remove the tumour on 9 January in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital, during which a small section of his skull was removed.

Afterwards, he still had to go through weeks of radiotherapy at Belfast City Hospital's Cancer Centre.

While other GCSE students were cramming in a final few weeks of revision during the spring, John was fitting his studies in around hospital appointments.

His consultant oncologist said she was amazed that he was even attempting his GCSEs.

Asked why he had persevered, John put it down to "stubbornness".

"I'd spent the last year and a half worrying about the exams and I sort of, this thing had just come out of the blue and I wasn't going to let it ruin that for me," he told BBC Newsline.

'Lucky'

However, he admitted that the cancer treatment had taken its toll and made studying much more difficult.

"The radiotherapy just cuts your energy levels entirely," he said.

He had missed at least a month of schooling due to medical treatment but said he was "lucky" as it coincided with mock GCSE examinations.

"There was no real new work being gone over, it was just old work that I have covered, so that was lucky and whenever I did come back everybody was starting the regular work again, so I was able to get into that," he said.

John received his results on Thursday, 23 August which included triple award science and higher tier maths.

The schoolboy now intends to study medicine and has set his sights on a career in forensic pathology.

He is also halfway through writing his first novel.

More on this story