Student’s exam stress turns out to be leukaemia


James Watt (21) was sitting for his A levels in the summer of 2015 when he began to feel sick and extremely tired but thought it was due to the pressure of his assessments.

When James, from Gloucestershire in southwest England, still felt ill two weeks after his final test, his mom insisted he see the doctor.

Three days later he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

After a three-and-a-half-year battle, James is now cancer free and about to finish his first year at university – a landmark he never thought he'd see.

James is studying hotel resource management at the University of Gloucestershire.

He says when he first got sick, he noticed he couldn't stomach food.

“Anything I was eating came straight back up. I was feeling awful all the time and was tired and dizzy constantly.

"Foolishly, I kept it to myself and was very dismissive of it all.

"In hindsight I was very ignorant, cancer was the very last thing I thought it could have been and in the end it was.”

James says his symptoms intensified as he carried on writing exams, but he was able to cope most of the time.

Things fell apart during his last two exams.

“I remember having to support myself to stand up because I was so dizzy, I thought I was going to pass out.

"Two weeks after my exams were done, I still felt terrible.

"My mom dragged me into hospital because she knew something wasn't right, and after having blood tests I was diagnosed with leukaemia.

James, who took A levels in history, classical civilisation and anthropology, immediately began intensive chemotherapy treatment.

He endured five stages of chemotherapy over a gruelling three and half years and lost more than 12kg.

“When I was diagnosed I was very numb to it.

“I was already so unwell I couldn't fully comprehend what was being said to me, so I didn't get that initial shock most people get.

"Once I started the chemotherapy I was massively weakened by it, the fatigue was terrible and I had no energy to do anything.

"It was a big struggle because I saw all my friends go off travelling and go to university and I felt I was stuck in a bubble.

"It was difficult, I felt like I was missing out." 

James, who was unable to go to university during his treatment, was finally well enough to attend in September 2018 after finishing his chemotherapy.

While he’s having blood tests every few months to monitor his condition, currently he’s cancer free – and has enjoyed taking part in student activities.

He’s chosen to live at home during his studies and rarely mentions his cancer battle to his peers.

"I'm not embarrassed but I don't go out of my way to mention it.”

He says going to university was a huge milestone.

“I could actually move on with my life. To anyone else going through the same thing I'd say it's scary and frustrating but you're not alone.

“It does come to an end and once it does, everything does get better."

Source: Magazine Features



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