AN INSPIRATIONAL teenager is celebrating gaining nine top grades in his GCSEs today after undergoing treatment for blood cancer and other health issues throughout most of his academic life.

Seb Murphy, 16, of Guiseley, has faced ongoing health challenges since he was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) at just three years old.

But, in the face of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, a stem cell transplant and spinal fusion surgery, the determined teen has successfully managed to keep up with his studies at Bradford Grammar School (BGS), with support from his family and friends at the school – and during the Covid pandemic thanks to a robot on loan from Leeds General Infirmary (LGI).

Today, his hard work and determination paid off when he received A grade equivalents across the board with one 9, five 8s and three 7s. Seb is now looking forward to starting his A Levels in Psychology, Business, History and English Literature at BGS in September.

Seb said: “I’m really pleased with my results – it’s more than I expected. I’m looking forward to celebrating with family and friends.

“It’s been a really rough journey. But the support of my family, friends, and the school has kept me strong, and I’ve had a lot of support and good care from the hospital. I’ve known my consultant since I was four and I’ve built up a good relationship with her. I just take everything one day at a time.”

Ilkley Gazette: Seb MurphySeb Murphy (Image: BGS)

Seb endured three and a half years of chemotherapy after he was first diagnosed with ALL. After nearly five years in remission, Seb learned the devastating news that his leukaemia had returned in December 2017. On Boxing Day, he was admitted to the LGI to start a gruelling in-patient course of chemotherapy. Sadly, this time the chemotherapy did not work, leading to Seb having to trial a more experimental immunotherapy treatment to get him into remission. He was told he would need a stem cell transplant to be cured. None of his family members were a match, leading to a world-wide search for a suitable donor. Finally, a German donor was identified and, in April 2018, after a week of radiotherapy twice a day, Seb received his life-saving stem cell transplant.

“That was one of the worst times of my life,” he recalled. “I had six weeks in hospital isolated from everyone because my immune system had been wiped out. My parents took alternate nights to stay with me. I was very sick and I had no energy so I was sleeping most of the time. I even had to learn how to walk again. I missed over 18 months of school during my treatment and recovery, but I was determined not to have to drop back a year, so I kept up with my studies at home.”

During his treatment and subsequent shielding during Covid, his studies were boosted by a robot on loan from the LGI which sat in lessons for him and beamed the action back to Seb’s tablet at home.

“I was shielding for quite a while because of Covid and so my friends and other people in the year group would take the robot and move it around for different lessons,” said Seb. “I’m also very grateful for the support of my teachers who did live Teams lessons for me to access at home which enabled me to keep up with my learning on the days I’ve not been well enough to get into school.”

While Seb has staged an inspirational fight back, he still has health challenges. The stem cell transplant and the toxicity of the cancer treatment has unfortunately left him with some severe chronic health complications which have had an impact on his ability to access education. One complication is chronic graft versus host disease (GVHD) of the lungs which means Seb is having to function on only around a third of his normal lung capacity. It has a significant impact on his energy levels and stamina. He takes a combination of different medications on a daily basis to treat his ongoing health conditions. Most recently, after completing his GCSE exams, Seb had spinal fusion surgery at the LGI to correct scoliosis which had developed during his cancer treatment. Despite all this, Seb successfully managed to sit all his nine GCSEs.

Ilkley Gazette: Seb with his parents Helen and BenSeb with his parents Helen and Ben (Image: BGS)

He added: “I would advise anyone in a similar situation to just keep on going, keep working hard and stay positive.”

Dr Simon Hinchliffe, headmaster at BGS, said: “Seb has shown a huge amount of courage and determination to keep up with his studies in the face of such tough health issues and gruelling treatments. We are very proud of him, he is a credit to the school, and we look forward to supporting him as he pursues his A Levels in September.”