‘Doctors said my brain tumour was exam stress!’
Five months ago, just as she was embarking on her GCSE revision, 16-year-old Ozge Parin decided she had to get something done about the vision problems that had been bothering her for about a year.
‘My teachers told my mum that I didn’t seem to be able to concentrate,’ says Ozge, a pupil at Skinners’ Academy in north London. ‘They knew something was wrong.
‘With exams coming, I had to get it sorted.’
She visited opticians and doctors to try to get a diagnosis.
‘One doctor said it was exam stress that was causing my vision problems,’ says Ozge.
Finally, she was sent for an MRI scan. ‘I think the doctors had had enough of me bothering them,’ she laughs.
It was 24 March, Ozge recalls, the day still imprinted on her mind. She was told that she had a brain tumour the size of a tennis ball. A slow-growing one, but a tumour never the less. And at this stage, doctors didn’t know whether it was benign or cancerous.
She was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in central London, where surgeons operated to remove the tumour. It was found to be benign.
'...exams don’t define who you are.’
Despite her relief at the diagnosis, Ozge’s problems weren’t over. She awoke from the operation paralysed down the whole of her right side – face, leg, arm and, crucially, the hand she needed to write her exam papers. For two weeks she could only get about in a wheelchair.
During the months between experiencing vision problems and her diagnosis, Ozge had continued with her studies, going to school every day. But now she had major decisions to make about her education. Should she forget about her nine GCSEs, recover from her operation and start again next year?
That wasn’t an option for her.
‘I didn’t want to wait a year,’ says Ozge. ‘I did what I could. I did most of the exams.’
With the help of a tutor supplied by Hackney Learning Trust, which runs local education services, and immense support from her school, Ozge battled through. Unable to write, she had to have someone to read and write for her in every one of her GCSE exams.
‘Everyone was so supportive at school,’ Ozge says, where the motto is ‘Be the best you can’ and students are taught that you can achieve your ambitions no matter what.
‘Everyone at school was behind me deciding what was the best thing to do and how I could do the exams.’
And her results? An incredible eight GCSE passes, including an A*. Ozge achieved GCSEs in Turkish (A*), English Literature (7 – equivalent to an A), Business Studies (B), Health & Social Care (B), English Language (5), Maths (4), Science Core (C), Science Additional (C).
'When I think about everything that’s happened, I think “Wow”,’ she says.
‘My mum told me that sitting the exams was enough and that exams don’t define who you are.’
As Ozge celebrates her incredible success, and looks forward to starting her BTEC Business Studies Level 3 Extended Diploma and Turkish A-Level at Skinners’ Academy in September, her recovery still isn’t complete.
‘I can walk unaided now, but my body is still weak. I’m having a lot of therapy. The doctors say that recovery can take up to a year.’
Skinners’ Academy Principal Tim Clark said: ‘Ozge’s achievement is absolutely remarkable. Her determination to continue with her education in the face of such serious medical problems is amazing. And then to get eight GCSEs with such impressive grades is fantastic. We could not be more proud of her.’