A student has battled debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia to secure nine of the highest GCSE grades.
Alicia Daley, 16, said at one point she thought it would be “impossible” to get the grades she desperately wanted after her diagnosis when she was 13.
Both conditions are long-term illnesses causing extreme tiredness and, in the case of fibromyalgia, chronic and widespread pain.
But the teenager was celebrating with other pupils at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on Thursday.
Alicia found out she had secured eight 9s – the highest possible grade – and also the top grade in additional maths – a grade A – when she opened her results.
She said: “I was diagnosed in Year 8, when I was 13, and then I missed most of Year 9 – I had about 27% attendance.
“The doctor said, ‘you can do English literature and English and maths’, and that was it.
“They said I could only have five hours of activity a day, including having a shower, or watching TV, and no iPad because of the blue light stimulation. The rest of the day was to be for relaxation and sleep.”
She added: “If I get 10 hours of sleep I can make it through but in Year 9 and part of Year 10, I was going to school two days a week and that would knock me out for the rest of the week.
“There was a time I didn’t think I’d do very well. I thought it was impossible.”
In Year 11, with the support of the school, she dropped two subjects, which meant she could do her homework in school time and relax at home.
She even earned an A* in astronomy last year after her friends encouraged her to take the subject despite her having a fear of “anything outside the Earth”, she joked.
But she is still adapting to life with her chronic conditions, and was told at the start of the year that she would have to give up PE, despite being a keen gymnast.
She said: “The thing is, the doctor said to me, ‘you can watch TV – but nothing you enjoy’, because it can’t be anything that is stimulating.”
The conditions can come on quickly, although she has learned to spot the signs, like when her ears start ringing, and has taken up meditation.
Her mother Lana Daley, a former teacher who now does charity work and cares for her daughter, said: “Were going to Bournemouth straight after this, that’s our happy place.
“We took her two years ago and she ended up in grandma’s wheelchair because of it (her conditions).
“She’s a tough cookie and it was really tough at first. It’s been a journey.”
Alicia, from Edgbaston, added: “I’ve learned now to listen to my body.”
Three weeks before study leave was due to start, teachers spotted Alicia might be heading for a relapse and called her in to the form room.
“I was working too hard, and they said I didn’t have to come to school or do any homework in the final week, so I’ve had great support,” she said.
“My teacher was fantastic, she was like ‘don’t worry’ and it was a wake-up call to me, really, that I needed to start relaxing.”
The support has paid off as her results have shown, she added.
Afterwards, she was planning on heading to Nando’s, before travelling to the coast with the rest of the family.