Cancer fight inspires Nichola Lyall to complete radiography degree
A woman has told how her battle with cancer inspired her to complete a degree in radiography.
Nichola Lyall from Dunmurry graduated from Ulster University this week.
In September 2012 the former hairdresser was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called triple negative breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction, and six cycles of chemotherapy.
On Wednesday she graduated with a BSc in Diagnostic Radiography.
She explained: "I didn't really know what a radiographer was until I was a patient and experienced it for myself.
"During the course of my diagnosis, treatment and recovery I spent a lot of time in the radiology department - I think by the end of it I had every type of scan going."
Spending so much time in hospital as a patient might have put some off - but it had the opposite effect for Nichola.
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She explained: "The treatment and care I received was amazing.
"Having those big scans can be a very scary and daunting process, but each radiographer I met showed me care and compassion and helped put me at ease.
"My own experiences in the radiology department made me realise that diagnostic radiography was for me.
"Not only did I find the science side of it really interesting but I wanted to have the opportunity to provide the type of care that I received and help as many people as I could."
Nichola had wanted to go to university since the age of 20 but said she was never brave enough to make the move and apply.
She completed an access course in her late 20s but always found an excuse not to do it - financial worries, demands of family and the fear of failure. She said it was her cancer diagnosis and recovery that gave her the final push.
She added: "I have always dreamt of graduating from university and getting to wear that cap and gown, and I truly believe that beating breast cancer gave me the motivation I needed to follow my dream."
Nichola said it was challenging to balance family life with studying full-time, but said she enjoyed every minute. She describes her degree as a family effort - her husband proofread her assignments and her daughter taught her how to use Powerpoint.
"It's important for me to set a good example to my 17-year-old daughter," she added.
"I wanted to show her that if you work hard you can achieve anything and I think it worked.
"She is studying hard for her A-levels and hopes to go on to study biomedical sciences. She plans to one day pursue a career in cancer research."
Since completing her studies Nichola has secured a post as a band five diagnostic radiographer in Belfast's City Hospital.