SINGAPORE - He did not study or attend school throughout his Secondary 3 year in 2018 - spending much of the time instead playing computer games - and his parents wanted him to repeat the year.
But Lian Jie Qi, who had missed school on doctor's orders after being diagnosed with leukaemia in January 2018, wanted to graduate with his classmates, whom he had known since Secondary 1.
So when he was given the green light to go back to school last year, the Huayi Secondary School student insisted on being promoted to Secondary 4 even though he was lagging behind in his studies.
On Monday (Jan 13), the 16-year-old was elated to find out that he had attained six distinctions out of eight subjects at last year's O-level exams.
"I couldn't study at all in Sec 3 because I was going for chemotherapy about twice a week. The after-effects were nausea and fatigue," he told The Straits Times, adding that playing computer games was a way to help him cope while undergoing treatment for his bone cancer.
When he first came back to school, he struggled to catch up, he said.
"The teacher was teaching new chapters at the start of the year but there were all the Sec 3 chapters that I had not learnt yet."
But his teachers sat down with him at least once a week after school for one-to-one lessons to help him catch up, chapter by chapter.
They came up with extra worksheets and assignments just for him, which he diligently completed.
When he was not attending the extra after-school lessons, he would study with his classmates.
They would explain concepts to him and help him when he was stuck.
"My friends made studying more enjoyable, and my teachers would frequently check up on me and ask how I'm doing," said Jie Qi, who is an only child.
He has been cancer-free since October last year.
His mother Madam Yong Lai Teng, 50, said it had been a very difficult time for him.
Recalling the ordeal, she said that in January 2018, she and her husband, construction site manager Lian Suen Chiang, 50, had found lumps on Jie Qi's body and took him to a doctor for a check-up.
He was diagnosed in a matter of days.
"Initially, we wanted him to repeat the Sec 3 year because we were worried he would be too stressed in Sec 4 if he couldn't catch up," said Madam Yong, an administrative executive.
"But we understood how he felt. He didn't want to be behind his peers, so we supported him in the end."
Jie Qi, who has not decided what to do next and is open to both the junior college and polytechnic routes, said he will be taking it one step at a time.
But whatever he decides, his parents will be behind him.
"We always tell him that as long as he tries his best, and he's happy, we will be too. We are very proud of him," said Madam Yong.