Siobhan Greene (22) from Brookeborough, is “over the moon” to be graduating with a Masters in Pharmacy from Queen’s University this year, despite being diagnosed with head and neck cancer in October 2019.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter on the day of her virtual graduation (July 3), Siobhan said: “I’m over the moon I am able to graduate with my class, I’ve honestly never been happier than when I got my results. It’s been such a rollercoaster but it’s really been worth it just to be finished and to have graduated even if it was virtually.”

Talking about her cancer diagnosis and journey, Siobhan said: “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 September 26 and underwent scans and by the October 15 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,” she shared.

Siobhan finished her first semester of university on December 11, 2019 and the very next day 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,” said Siobhan.

Unfortunately for Siobhan, battling cancer wasn’t the only challenge she faced whilst completing her Masters degree. As for many students at universities across the country, the coronavirus outbreak had a big impact on her course.

“So I had been given the all-clear in January and I was so happy because I was so excited to graduate and then in March we were told that classes were going to be postponed and then everything was up in the air,” explained Siobhan.

“I got quite emotional the week that coronavirus had become prominent and it was just the fact that we didn’t know what was going on and after everything that had happened, the thought of not being able to finish university was horrible,” she told this newspaper.

Despite all the challenges she has faced, Siobhan was able to complete her course and graduated with a Masters in Pharmacy.

She noted her gratefulness to all the staff at the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University who were incredibly supportive to her during her diagnosis and treatment.

“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,” she noted.

“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,” said Siobhan.

She added that friends that she made in the MPharm were amazing and older friends acted like a rock to her: “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.”

The future is looking bright for Siobhan as she took up her pre-registration position in Lisbellaw Medical Hall in Lisbellaw last week on July 1, 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.

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