Thursday 22 August 2019

Woman who had cancer surgery before Leaving Cert graduates with first-class honours degree

Sarah O’Neill (22) (pictured) had cancer surgery two months before sitting her Leaving Certificate and is now is about to graduate with a 1st class honours degree. Picture Ciara Wilkinson.
Sarah O’Neill (22) (pictured) had cancer surgery two months before sitting her Leaving Certificate and is now is about to graduate with a 1st class honours degree. Picture Ciara Wilkinson.

Elaine Keogh

A woman who had cancer surgery two months before sitting her Leaving Certificate is about to graduate with a first-class honours degree.

Sarah O’Neill (22), is also about to qualify as a personal trainer and she is encouraging other young people going through a tough time not to compare themselves “to anybody other than you.”

Sarah always liked going to the gym and it was when what she thought was a pulled muscle pain didn’t go away, that she went to the doctor and ultimately told she had cancer.

Five years ago she found out she had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and started chemotherapy the next day.  Then followed surgery to remove the rest of the tumour and then radiotherapy.

Sarah, from Drogheda, says gym work she did before she got sick, “really stood to me because of how well I came through treatment.” 

“Then getting back into the gym (helped) my confidence and my health, I am stronger than I have ever been in my life both mentally and physically.”

“I think sometimes people forget how good your body and your mind should feel and can feel, so look after them.”

Sarah secured 250 points in her Leaving Certificate which she was delighted with because, “a month or two before the Leaving Cert, it was touch and go on whether I was going to be able to do it. I was delighted to even get through it.”

She was offered a place on what was her final CAO option: a three year Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Society in DCU and although she did not know much about it when she put it down, “I loved it,” she said.

It has combined well with her love of fitness and health.

Sarah O'Neill who got her leaving cert despite her cancer battle
Sarah O'Neill who got her leaving cert despite her cancer battle

Sarah also said, “now I know what I am able for, I got a 1st class honours.”

She knows it is easy to get caught up in images on Instagram and other social media channels particularly when comments are posted.

Her advice is, “once you do your best, don’t compare yourself to anybody other than you.”

On her Instagram account she says, “I try and be real and positive and realistic.”

She says strive to be happy and bear in mind that “if there are people who are living down the road commenting on someone else's looks or if you have enough time to be commenting or concerned about other people, just focus on yourself, if you are happy and doing good, that is all that really matters.”

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