There's a title I never thought I'd write!
As most of you know my road to graduation has not been plain sailing. I suppose it started when my health dictated that I give up my work as a special needs teaching assistant. I was on the list for a double lung transplant back in 2007, and couldn't face sitting at home with no reason to get up every morning. I had always wanted to go to uni but my health was never up to it. I looked into the Open university and the rest is history. I started on a childhood studies pathway but as part of the degree I took a Children's literature course. I loved it and realised I would like to change to Literature, it would be more useful in my future life and was something I had enjoyed at school. It was a hard decision to effectively start from scratch but I knew it was the right move.
Over the next 5 years I experienced some of the worst times of my life. With my health getting progressively worse, waiting for transplant, false alarms, constant pain, fatigue, extreme breathlessness, and various other problems study became harder. Many times I threw tantrums and didn't want to do it any more. It made me tear my hair out, but at the same time it gave me purpose, allowed me to exercise my mind and ease my frustration as my body slowly broke down but my mind remained strong. Things got worse, I was barely myself anymore, I was placed under end of life care and the end was getting nearer. Every time I registered for the next part of my degree I had the awful realisation that I might not be around to finish the course, and if I did would I be here to graduate one day? It was unlikely. But the OU was a piece of normality when my whole world had been turned upside down, a little bit of what others my age were doing, a ray of hope that pulled me on when times were dark. You cannot imagine how hard it was some days to read or write essays when I was so poorly. I was expected to last a few months towards the end of one course. Then a few days before my exam I received that magical, life changing call. During my recovery the OU provided the same refuge as it did while I was waiting. Its definitely not been an easy ride; but its been worth it.
Against all the odds I finished the degree, and amazingly with first class honours. I am delighted. It had been my dream from day one to wear that cap and gown, and to walk, unaided across that stage to collect my degree. And I did.
I had my graduation ceremony on the 20th September at the Barbican Centre in London, it was a wonderful day. My parents, sister and nan came to watch me graduate. After getting dressed, having photos, chatting to other students, and having some lunch it was time for the ceremony to start.
As I filed into the auditorium I was struck that the last time I'd been there was in my wheelchair and on oxygen. This time I walked without help of any kind, breathing with new lungs. We were seated and watched a short film of students talking about their experiences, for the first time that day I began to feel tears in my eyes. They spoke to the graduates about how there were times on there journey when they would have experienced challenges and wanted to give up but how determination had brought us to this graduation day. To be there was a complete dream, I beamed as I walked across the stage, heart beating out of my chest and received my degree. Later a young girl of around my age who had mobility issues was helped across the stage leaning on her mum for support, as she exited she took a seat in her wheelchair and the relief on her face at finally sitting down was so familiar. Again I started to cry at how lucky I am to be where I am, and continued to do so through the rest of the ceremony. That could so easily have been me and just as easily I could never have had my name read out at all. I am incredibly blessed to have had this dream come true. I said a little thank you to my donor and their incredible generosity to have allowed me this chance, I hope they were proud of what I achieved.
Thank you to everyone who sent me tweets, messages, cards and gifts of congratulations it has been incredible and overwhelming. You're all so generous.
Please consider giving someone else the same chances I have had and let some of their dreams become reality by signing up to the donor register using the links on the right.
Huge congratulations to my fellow graduates, we did it!!!!