Shaun's determination pays off as he graduates following cancer battle
A young graduate has spoken about looking forward to the future after persevering through intensive chemotherapy to complete his degree at Ulster University.
Shaun Haw (23), from Mayobridge outside Newry, graduated yesterday with a BSc Hons in Accounting and Advertising in what he described as a poignant and emotional celebration, just 12 months after being faced with a blood cancer diagnosis.
He had been preparing to sit his final exams at the UU's Magee campus last summer when he became unwell.
Shortly afterwards, in June 2016, Shaun was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and his dreams of completing his degree were put on hold in order that he could undergo lifesaving treatment.
From then until January 2017 he underwent four rounds of intensive chemotherapy at Belfast City Hospital.
Shaun described the experience as a tough time for him and his family. "I went from being a normal, healthy young man, playing football and preparing for my final exams, to facing a leukaemia diagnosis. It was a very scary time," he said.
"I didn't know what to expect. Initially I had hoped I would be able to complete my exams and coursework in hospital but as my treatment progressed it became clear this wouldn't be possible.
"I had been planning a trip to New York with my girlfriend after graduation and was on my way to buy a suitcase after what I thought was a routine hospital visit. Everything changed so quickly. It was like my life was put on hold."
But 12 months on Shaun is in remission and says his sights are firmly set on the future.
"I am healthy now and getting back to myself. I have to go for regular check-ups and everything has been normal so far," he added.
"It's a huge relief to me and to my family. I was very lucky to benefit from exceptional treatment - the Cancer Centre in Belfast is world-class and I owe so much to the doctors and nurses there.
"I said that I would complete my degree no matter what. When I finished my treatment I got back to work and managed to get a solid 2:1, of which I'm very proud."
Shaun has joined forces with family, friends from London and even a celebrity supporter in the form of Chelsea footballer Nathaniel Chalobah in recent months to raise vital funds for charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support, CLIC Sargent and the Cancer Fund for Children.
He said the experience had changed his life and, from considering a career in accountancy, he is now veering towards something more creative.
"I'm firmly of the mantra that you should do as much as you can, when you can. Life is too short," he added.
Also graduating yesterday from the Ulster University was Sean Doran, an artistic director working in the international arts world.
The Londonderry man received an honorary doctorate for his contribution to the English National Opera.
He began his professional career as a clarinettist and has since gone on to direct major worldwide festivals, including the UK Year of Literature 1995 (Wales) and the Perth International Arts Festival, for which he was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government.