There are a number of things I absolutely love about my job. One of them is seeing how our students progress through the College, and slowly but surely improve and grow as individuals. It’s a real passion of mine to improve the outcomes of students. And in seeing all these students make that journey, every now and again a student will come along who has their own inspirational story.
One of these students was honoured at an Association of Colleges (AoC) reception at the Houses of Parliament yesterday after being highly commended in its prestigious Student of the Year Awards.
Emily Mackay’s story at East Kent College started in just the same way as thousands of other students who have passed through our campuses over the years.
|Emily celebrates with College tutors and family|
She first enrolled in September 2013, choosing to study Level 3 Professional Cookery. But just months after beginning her course Emily was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer known as Osteosarcoma. The rare type of cancer – which she refers to as her ‘designer cancer’ – affects just 150 people across the UK each year; a fact which motivated Emily to begin a blog to highlight it.
After the diagnosis Emily underwent a variety of treatments – including surgery – which pushed the cancer into remission. She was given the all-clear by doctors in July 2014, re-joining the College in September that year.
But Emily’s battle with cancer was not over, and just months later this time last year, she was diagnosed as having a tumour on her lung. She said at the time that she wasn’t surprised at another tumour being found, bravely stating she was ‘just happy to have got this far’. In a heroic move she vowed not to let cancer rule her life, or waste her time, and decided to continue her studies while fighting the illness. Throughout her second round of chemotherapy, Emily courageously continued to study diligently. Following treatment she was told that her pelvic tumour and lung tumour were stable.
|Emily with Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay|
But just before Christmas last November, while in London receiving radiotherapy for the tumour in her lung, Emily lost all sensation in her arm. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain tumour around the size of a walnut. She underwent surgery and the tumour was successfully removed. However over Christmas it returned, and in January she was back in London for another operation to try and remove it. She’s currently recovering from the surgery, but managed to attend the AoC function yesterday.
She received the highly commended award for showing commitment to her College work while displaying heroic levels of bravery during the last couple of years. I’m not sure many teenagers would have had the strength of character to continue when faced with such adversity. Her tale is truly an inspirational one – and one which I think we should all pay heed to. She has never given up, like so many people would have under those circumstances, nor has she approached things with negativity. She would have had the perfect excuse to quit College and simply do as she had pleased, but she chose to keep learning, keep trying, keep working despite the difficulties; in an age of aspiration, I know that’s something I personally strive for. And it’s because of that, that I would like to pass on my heartfelt congratulations to Emily. She’s an inspiration to everyone at East Kent College, as well as students across the land. She deserves that accolade, and many more in the future.