An Oxfordshire teenager bagged a stunning set of GCSEs grades despite an battle with an aggressive cancer and having radiotherapy before every exam.
Kasper Buist was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (eRMS) in November 2020, aged just 15.
Now 16, Kasper can boast eight grade 9s – higher marks than the old A* – and two grade eights – seen as somewhere between an A and A*.
The teen spent four months undergoing intense daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy – while studying for and sitting his GCSEs at Oxford’s prestigious private school Magdalen College.
Complications meant the youngster’s stomach swelled up ‘like he was pregnant’ and left him unable to eat anything for days on end – even intravenously – and in hospital for five and a half weeks.
Undeterred, Kasper would attend his radiotherapy sessions at 8am every morning – and then go straight from the hospital to school to sit an exam.
The teen is now in the process of setting up a charity focussed on childhood cancer.
Kasper’s results gave the family a welcome boost after the gruelling regime and ‘horrendous’ year.
And more stellar results for his twin also added to their pride, with Tristan getting six grade 9s, two grade 8s and 7s and one grade 6.
Stay-at-home mum Oonah said: ‘We were completely flabbergasted, we weren’t expecting that Kasper could do so well. It’s quite miraculous.
‘Because of what he’s gone through in the last year, he kind of knew that he would be forgiven anything, and that the school would still allow him to do his A-Levels, regardless of the results.
‘But it was really important to him to be able to show what he knew, and just to be able to go through the experience with his brother and his friends.’
She continued: ‘It also meant a lot to him that he could be there with his friends to collect his results.
‘It’s been worth all the time he’s put in. Revising was really hard for him, it’s one thing to muster your brain for a two-hour exam, but it’s another to do it for prolonged revision periods.’
The youngster was diagnosed not long after finding a lump.
Oonah explained: ‘What was really hard for Kasper was that when he first noticed the lump, he didn’t feel ill at all.
‘He was really physically fit, and actually he felt the best he’d ever felt… But then he got his diagnosis and found out he had this very aggressive disease.’
Rather than start Kasper on chemotherapy and radiotherapy right away, doctors at the city’s John Radcliffe Hospital decided to first carry out major investigative surgery.
The procedure, known as a laparotomy, involved a large surgical incision from top to bottom of the abdomen, to extract and examine some of Kasper’s lymph nodes.
But the laparotomy had to be repeated shortly afterwards, when Kasper did not recover as expected – and doctors discovered he had a burst appendix, and a subsequent abdomen infection.
His mum explained: ‘It was the most horrendous thing. His abdomen swelled right up, he looked like he was pregnant.
‘Then when the scar gave way, he was left with a long open wound, 4cm long and 2.5cm wide.
‘He was in hospital for five and a half weeks, he lost 15 per cent of his body weight. He couldn’t eat anything for five days, even intravenously.’
And in the months after Kasper started his chemotherapy in January, the side effects only got more debilitating.
Oonah said: ‘He lost the use of his fingers so he couldn’t write, and he lost sensation in his feet so he couldn’t walk properly.’
She also paid tribute to the school, who she says ‘bent over backwards’ during the ‘nightmare’ time to support Kasper and promised he could stay on regardless of his results.
But Oonah said that although Kasper’s GCSE results are a ‘great achievement’, she is more proud of the new charity he is in the midst of setting up – the Childhood Cancer Research Trust.
She said: ‘What was really horrible for Kasper was seeing all the other children, a lot of whom were younger than him, suffering in the same way he was.
‘If it was just him, I think he’d have been able to deal with it better.
‘I think the greater achievement for him will be setting up this charity, and hopefully changing the future of childhood cancer research.’
Kasper and Tristan are not the only talented members of the Buist family – with their younger brother Myron, 13, recording and releasing a CD to help raise funds for Kasper’s charity.
He recorded the CD, titled LOVE IS., with his friend Archie White, 14, which features 21 classical music tracks sung in five different languages.
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