Northern Ireland

Woman earns university degree after ignoring advice to quit education following brain tumour diagnosis

Ballymoney's Lauren Monaghan.
Ballymoney's Lauren Monaghan.

A Co Antrim woman has described how she turned down advice to quit education after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour and went on to earn her university degree.

Lauren Monaghan, from Ballymoney, graduated with a degree in computer science from Ulster University on Thursday.

She said that after being diagnosed with a "very rare" brain tumor at the age of 12, she embarked on a long process that saw her go through two surgeries and face complications that meant she had to travel to the USA for treatment.

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She worked with a home tutor to achieve her GCSEs, and was advised to leave education after those exams were completed.

“Despite the doctors’ advice, I knew I wanted to keep going – I wanted to do my A-Levels and go onto higher education," she said.

"The number of complications after the surgery and radiotherapy treatment I had undergone were challenging but I worked hard to catch up with classmates and get the grades I needed to move onto the next stage of my education.” 

However, ahead of sitting her A-Levels, another medical complication, which she said "no-one saw coming" forced her to be held back a year.

Following her A-Levels, she went on to be accepted at Ulster University before the Covid pandemic struck in her second semester.

She joined a craft society at the Magee campus, hosting meetings on Zoom during the period when all classes were held online.

Now a committee member for the Brainwaves NI charity which supports brain tumor patients and their families, Lauren is preparing to start a new role as a graduate software intern at Citi in September.

"I still have rough days coping with the complications of my tumour, but I’ve learned to adapt and make the most of the good days," she said. 

"I also perform with Cancer Fund for Children’s Care-Free Choir. This charity helped me connect with other young people who understood what I was going through. These charities – as well as Young Lives vs Cancer, supported me and my family which I am eternally grateful for.”