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Summer 2020

Inspirational Queen’s student battles illness to achieve graduation success

Siobhan, aged 22 from Brookeborough in County Fermanagh, has overcome the odds this year to graduate with a Master’s in Pharmacy, despite being diagnosed with head and neck cancer in October 2019.

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Speaking about her diagnosis, Siobhan says: “I noticed a lump on my throat in September and went to get it checked in case I needed antibiotics and I was referred on. I got my first appointment in the Royal Victoria Hospital on the 26 September and underwent scans and by the 15 October I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer.  My consultant told me I would have to take time off university and I may not be able to graduate with my year group. I was told if I had surgery I would almost definitely need chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

“I finished my first semester of university on 11 December 2019 and the very next day I underwent a neck dissection and a basal lingual tonsil removal. My scar runs from the front of the right side of my neck to past my ear. Incredibly, when I received my results my consultant had managed to remove all the cancerous cells and I did not require any further treatment! I was put into remission January 13 2020. I feel I was so fortunate that I only required surgery because I got my lump checked so quickly. It was hard physically and mentally to continue my degree, but I'm over the moon I am able to graduate with my class.”

Despite all of the challenges she faced, Siobhan says her journey at Queen’s was an enjoyable one. She comments: “The School of Pharmacy and all the staff were incredibly supportive to me during my diagnosis and treatment. The friends I made in the MPharm were amazing and older friends acted like my rock. I was so lucky to have such a brilliant group of friends as I could not have got through this year without them. Everyone in the course was so supportive. My project supervisor gave me flexible deadlines and supported me throughout the year, and my ‘responding to symptoms’ supervisors allowed me to swap classes whenever my appointments clashed.  My personal tutor, advisor of studies and the Director of Education were able to provide help in relation to exams, my project and were always available for me to talk to.

“Several other lecturers constantly checked in with me and made me feel at ease, and helped me whatever way they could, especially if I needed someone to talk to or I required flexible deadlines, or change to different class groups if one day didn’t suit. I cannot thank those involved from Queen’s enough.”

The future is looking bright for Siobhan as she will take up her pre-registration position in Lisbellaw Medical Hall in Lisbellaw which begins on 1 July for 52 weeks. After she completes her pre-registration exam and register as a pharmacist, Siobhan plans to undertake locum work in a variety of places to gain experience and be able to travel.

She says: “I’m excited about graduating with my friends this year, which at times, I was unsure would happen. I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life where I’m doing my pre-registration in pharmacy and I hope to be qualified this time next year.

“Working in a patient-facing role like pharmacy can be incredibly fulfilling and you can have a real impact on the lives of patients.”



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