Gary Junter

Inspirational Grandfather: Gaining a Master’s while battling incurable blood cancer


Gary Hunter will graduate today (Friday 15 December) with a Master’s in Creative Writing.

County Down retiree and dad of three grown up children, Gary Hunter, graduates with a Master’s with Distinction in Creative Writing on Friday 15 December at Queen’s University Belfast.

Gary, who lives in Comber, was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia – an incurable strain of Leukaemia - in 2008. In 2013, he was also diagnosed with Transitional Cell Carcinoma (urological cancer) and lost his right kidney, ureter and part of his bladder.

The grandfather of four felt inspired to take up Creative Writing following his second cancer diagnosis in 2013.

Gary says; “Anyone who has received a bleak cancer diagnosis will no doubt be familiar with dark times. For me, writing is cathartic and has helped me understand a lot about myself, my background and my cancer. It may sound strange but I realised soon after my diagnosis that, as I would be living the rest of my life with cancer, I had to make it work for me.”

He added; “Writing allowed me to confront my reality. And even more than that, it sparked a creativity in me that had been lying dormant for many years. Writing got me through dark times and reminded me that there is life after diagnosis. My 16,000 word dissertation was essentially a memoir, reflecting on my turbulent childhood, growing up during ‘the Troubles’ and living with cancer. I was so committed to the Master’s that even when I was being wheeled into hospital last Christmas with pneumonia, I was working on my laptop.”

Gary said; “I hope my story will be an encouragement to others living with an incurable illness and I’m very grateful to all the support I have received from my family and Queen’s – from my course tutors to the disability officers. The Master’s has been such a positive and inspirational experience for me, I’m even considering doing a PhD!”

Gary is now involved with local charities including Macmillan and Marie Curie, doing public speaking and sharing his story.

For media inquiries, please contact Queen’s University Communications Office, 028 9097 3091  

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