Cancer help on Internet

January 5, 1996

Former Teesside University student Joanne Rafferty, who achieved a first-class degree last summer after beating off a rare cancer, hopes to set up a network to help other students with the disease.

The idea came to her after advising a London student who has cancer. She has yet to decide how to go about it, but one possibility is using the Internet. Ms Rafferty has no doubt of the benefits it would bring: "It wouldn't just be for students, but the idea is to help people around the age of most students. There are very few young people who have gone through this and to be able to talk to other people of your own age who have had the same experience, to exchange those experiences and feelings and most of all to show that there is hope, would be very helpful."

She has equally little doubt that continuing with her university work helped her recovery. Her pharnygeal-nasal tumour - next to her brain and the size of a small grapefruit - was diagnosed after a two-day nosebleed during the long vacation at the end of her first year.

She underwent six gruelling weeks of chemotherapy, suffered a stroke and at one stage was given only a week to live. But she recovered, learning to walk, talk and write again - in time to rejoin her second-year class after turning down the offer of a one-year deferment. She says: "Finishing the degree was important. I wanted something to put my mind on after all I had been through. If I hadn't gone straight back to the university I would have lost my confidence and would have had too much time on my hands to think, 'Oh dear! I nearly died'."

Joanne, 22, spent her placement year as administrative assistant at the Teesside Hospice, whose MacMillan nurses visited her throughout her illness. She graduated last summer with a first-class degree in public administration. She now works as a judgments officer at Teesside Combined Courts.

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