Wednesday 21 August 2019

First class: Girl who battled cancer while sitting exams set to graduate

Sarah O’Neill. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Sarah O’Neill. Photo: 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 is encouraging other young people going through a tough time not to compare themselves "to anybody other than you".

Five years ago, Sarah went to see her doctor with what she thought was pain from a pulled muscle. However, she was ultimately diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and started chemotherapy the next day.

This was followed by surgery to remove the rest of the tumour and then radiotherapy.

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

"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," she said.

Survivor: Sarah O’Neill with parents Darren and Sharon during her cancer treatment. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Survivor: Sarah O’Neill with parents Darren and Sharon during her cancer treatment. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

"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.

"A month or two before the Leaving Cert, it was touch and go whether I was going to be able to do it. I was delighted to even get through it," she said.

Sarah is now set to graduate from DCU with a Bachelor of Science degree in health and society.

She knows it is easy for people 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.

"Just focus on yourself - if you are happy and doing good, that is all that really matters."

Irish Independent

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