A teenage cancer patient who missed a year of school while undergoing treatment for cancer is celebrating completing her GCSEs despite being admitted to hospital part way through her exams.
Aliyah Nadim, 16, from Derby, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 after an MRI scan found an inoperable tumour behind her tummy, pressing on her spine.
She had 18 months of chemotherapy at the QMC’s Nottingham Children’s Hospital, which caused her hair to fall out twice and left her with diabetes, nerve pain and a painful condition which means the bone tissue in her joints is dying.
Despite spending months in hospital, the final-year secondary school student who attends Bemrose School was determined to return to lessons as soon as possible.
And a year after her initial diagnosis, she was back at her desk as frequently as possible, even staying behind after school for revision sessions.
Aliyah managed to sit all of her GCSEs – an astonishing 22 exams – despite vomiting during one and passing out at the end of another.
Aliyah said: “I was devastated when I was told I had cancer and it felt like the end of the world.
“I didn’t want to lose my hair, I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me and I didn’t want to miss school.
“It was hard trying to revise when you have missed a year of school and I was still having weekly blood tests, regular transfusions and lots of strong tablets, including chemo, which makes me feel poorly.
“After two weeks of exams I came home and had a nosebleed and passed out.
“I was admitted to hospital and they discovered my liver wasn’t functioning properly and I had an infection.
“So, I was also on antibiotics for the rest of the exams as well as everything else.
“I definitely won’t have done as well as I could have done but hopefully I will have done enough to be able to do A-Levels.”
Aliyah’s mum Yasmin said: “It was important to Aliyah to get back to school, both for her education and socially, to be among her friends.
“She is a very brave girl and nobody is really aware of how poorly she has been.
“I would be up all night massaging her because of the pain and then she would spend 30 minutes putting on make-up before school so that people couldn’t see how ill she was.
“Whether she has done well in her exams or not doesn’t matter to us because she has tried her very best.
“We are incredibly proud of her; Exams are important but not as important as her health, but we are very proud of the effort she has put in regardless of the results.”
Aliyah first started feeling unwell in 2015 when she experienced intermittent discomfort in her leg and back.
She was sent for further tests and doctors confirmed that Aliyah had cancer.
She was then seen by the paediatric oncology team at Nottingham Children’s Hospital (NCH).
Dr Sophie Wilne, consultant paediatric oncologist and clinical service lead at NCH, said: “All of us working in the children’s and young people’s oncology service at Nottingham Children’s Hospital are continually amazed and impressed by the courage and determination shown by our patients.
“Aliyah is a fantastic example of this – sitting GCSEs is hard enough without having to endure ongoing chemotherapy at the same time.
“Aliyah and her family should be incredibly proud of her achievements and we look forward to celebrating the results of these with her and her family this week.”