When Aberdeen-based nurse, Jenny Angus, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), she decided to take stock of her life and change her career path to one that she had coveted for many years.
Instead of dwelling on the negative, she chose to retrain as a social worker and now - four years on - has graduated this week from Robert Gordon University and has already made her first steps into a new career.
Jenny (34) from Cove Circle in Cove, began studying her BA (Hons) in social work following a career break for children. It was during this time she was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS.
Looking back on this difficult period, Jenny said: "The diagnosis came as a shock to the whole family, however we have always tried to focus on the positive aspects of life, and this was just seen as a challenge to overcome."
Jenny was drawn to social work due to her two siblings, Michael and Kate, who have learning disabilities. Upon leaving school she trained as a nurse for people with learning disabilities. After having children she had intended to return to work but, following her diagnosis, decided that social work was better suited to her physically. The profession would also draw on her previous knowledge and skills and allow her to continue in a caring role.
Jenny managed to balance her studies with family and health commitments well. Her condition affects her balance and causes her to experience bouts of extreme fatigue, which she has had to learn to manage during her time at university. One solution was learning to drive, which helped minimise the level of physical exertion involved in her daily commutes.
She was also supported by the university's disability and dyslexia service which aids students' access to the learning environment by working with staff to bring about appropriate solutions.
In Christmas 2010, personal tragedy struck when Jenny's father, who had been battling ill health for many years, sadly passed away at the same time Jenny was on her final placement.
"This was a really difficult time for me", said Jenny. "While I knew his long term prognosis didn't look great, I had hoped that my father would have been able to attend my graduation. Unfortunately this wasn't to be."
Jenny was joined at her morning graduation ceremony on Wednesday 13 July by her husband Graham, mother Morven Wood and children Kieran (14) and Kirstin (12)
It was a day of double celebration for her as she has also secured a position as care manager with Aberdeen City Council.
"I'm really excited to have a job in the area of care management", said Jenny, "especially as it's working with older people which I really enjoy. It's going to be the start of a new challenge and I'm looking forward to starting work in the next few weeks."
Looking back on her time at university, Jenny concluded: "I wish to encourage other disabled people out there who may be thinking of going to university to give it a try. With the help of staff, family and friends, it really is possible to accomplish so much."
Robert Gordon University
Tel: 01224 262389