A Whaley Bridge woman has beaten the odds to complete her university studies despite battling a life-threatening illness and raising a young family.
Soon-to-be-undergraduate Gill Ashton, 28, suffered the shock of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer during her first year studying for a two-year foundation degree qualification at the University of Chester to become an Assistant Practitioner.
As well as undergoing treatment, dedicated Gill continued to work at Macclesfield District General Hospital on the orthopaedic unit as well as raising two young children as a single parent and finding the time to complete her studies.
Gill, who is hoping to continue on and finish her degree in nursing, said she had received invaluable support from family, friends and the university with her children, studies and work helping to keep her mind off her treatment.
“I had huge support from the tutors who offered me extensions on work but I declined because I did not want to get behind,” she explained.
“My family were great but were wary of discussing the subject with me but my colleagues at work were the best throughout. Work was my escape from life.
“My friends on the course helped me through the dark days and yes.....I cried myself to sleep many times but my gorgeous children gave me a reason to get out of bed and finish the course. Without them, I do not think I would have got through it.”
Once given the all clear, courageous Gill raised nearly £600 for the hospital that treated her, Christie in Manchester, by taking part in a skydive.
Senior Lecturer Julie Holland said: “Gill had to show great tenacity and strength of character to complete her studies alongside coping with personal difficulties, having been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in her first year of studies.”
Also due to graduate is Buxton mother-of-two Sarah White, 41, who has been able to fulfil a life-long dream by joining the Army Reserve Forces, thanks to the confidence she found while studying at the university.
During her current role as a trainee assistant practitioner at East Cheshire Hospice, providing holistic care to patients with life limiting illnesses, she was offered the opportunity to study for a Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care (Assistant Practitioner) at the university. This then encouraged her to apply to work as a nurse in the Army Reserves.
She said: “My ideal job has always been to work as a nurse in the Forces although I had to wait a long time for my children to become more independent so that they could cope when I was away from home.
“Doing the Foundation Degree at Chester gave me the confidence to apply and I am thrilled that I am currently a soldier in training and have joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps at 207 Field Hospital in Stretford.”