JC student tackled exams - and cancer - from hospital

SINGAPORE - With a tube inserted into a vein in his right arm, Mr Ang Wei Qun sat for his economics paper while undergoing his fourth round of chemotherapy.

The 19-year-old said that writing with the tube was troublesome as he is right-handed. The tube is usually inserted into his left arm but it had become infected after numerous sessions of chemotherapy.

He had suffered a relapse of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, in June last year, just a few months before his A-level examinations.

Last November, the Pioneer Junior College arts student took all five of his papers at the National University Hospital (NUH) where he had been warded for a month.

Yesterday, the strong-willed youth managed to beat the odds by passing all his A-level subjects, scoring a C, three Ds and an E for economics.

"The A-level exam was more difficult than the chemotheraphy," joked Mr Ang , calling himself a "hairless mole" as a result of the treatment.

But he also beat the disease - he said he is cancer-free now.

Each chemotherapy session lasted six days. He went through seven sessions over six months.

Mr Ang's ordeal started about four years ago when he was diagnosed with lymphoma after a biopsy revealed that a lump on his left thigh was cancerous.

His family was going through a difficult time then. His parents were in the midst of a bitter divorce. They were at risk of losing their five-room flat after his father defaulted on the HDB loan repayment.

His mother, a hairdresser and now the sole breadwinner, also had trouble paying the bills. She declined to be interviewed.

Mr Ang has a younger sister who is 16. She took her O levels last year, acing the exams.

Cancer relapse

His health problems started last year when a regular check-up showed he had a relapse of the lymphoma.

Mr Ang said: "Months earlier, I was having difficulty walking and I was even late for school. The doctor told me I had 50 to 70 per cent chance of survival.

"But I knew I had to live. Who will take care of my mother and sister if I am gone?"

His school, including alumni and staff, helped to raise money for his treatment, which would have cost up to $70,000.

There was at least one occasion when Mr Ang thought that he would not survive.

On the day of his General Paper (GP), his first paper of the exam, he thought he might die after he ran a fever of 40.8 deg C because of an infection.

"I have heard of people who died of infection instead of the cancer. I thought I would die and not have to take the rest of my A levels," he said with a straight face.

He beat the odds and sat for the other papers. He got a D for GP.

"I never saw a point in giving up. If I went through with this, I would have at least an A-level certificate instead of just an O-level certificate."

Mr Ang kept his condition from his school initially, but teachers found out after he missed lessons regularly.

His history tutor, Mr Augustine Ng, said: "Considering what he went through, he did very well. His cancer did not pull him back from putting in his best effort."

Mr Ang is not sure of his future plans but hopes to study in the arts faculty at the National University of Singapore.

"At least it is near NUH," he said with a laugh.

The A-level exam was more difficult than the chemotheraphy.

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