Renewed confidence: cancer survivor Ann is determined to finish her degree

When Ann-Christin Egeberg took a blood test one day in 2010, doctors discovered she was just one week away from death.

She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and went on to have more than 20 rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

A decade later, Ann is studying Social Welfare, with support from Charles Sturt University’s Disability Services. The team has given her the tools to learn while managing the side-effects of cancer treatment, including deteriorating eyesight and memory difficulties.

Ann is determined to get her degree in an area of study that’s close to her heart. The 53-year-old was raised by migrant parents, experienced homelessness at various times throughout her life, and sheltered with other women in a refuge in her 20s.

“It’s been meeting people like that that’s given me the will to keep striving and keep trying,” Ann says.

This year, when COVID-19 forced her to isolate away from family members, Ann found herself at a very low point.

“I was sitting here one day and I was trying to read and my eyes just felt like I had two handfuls of sand thrown into them.

“I’d kept trying to read and read and read and just could not do more than five or ten pages at best.

“I was just feeling very lost and frustrated, and I was going to ring up the uni and say ‘I give up, I’m done’.”

Instead, Ann called Disability Services to ask for help, and felt immediately supported.

“My life really changed for the better. I think I’d ground myself into a bit of a hole, feeling very doom and gloom.

“I was getting very depressed because I wasn’t able to do as much reading as I used to, and had to stop and start all the time.

“They were so kind and so understanding and really worked with me to figure out how I could use their services.” Ann now uses a device to listen to her academic readings, and can work through her assessments at a comfortable pace using a Study Access Plan.

“When I fell into that hole, like I did at the start of this year, the uni was there for me when I needed it most,” Ann says.

“Reflecting back over the last few months, I can honestly say to you the things they helped me with were, in some ways, life saving.

“I had gotten so badly stuck that I didn’t even realise I needed to reach out.”

She feels she can now face the rest of her degree with renewed confidence, and encourages anyone else managing health concerns to reach out.

“I was able to look in the mirror and say: ‘It’s OK you’re allowed to be unwell, you’re allowed to have these problems, it doesn’t mean that you’re on the scrapheap now’.”

The Charles Sturt Disability Services team helps students with a physical or sensory impairment, learning disability, mental health or medical condition. If you have a temporary condition, you may also be eligible for support. Please visit the Disability Services page for more information.