Ballymoney woman diagnosed with brain tumour aged 12 graduates from Ulster University

A Ballymoney woman who was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 12 and advised to leave education after GCSEs has graduated from Ulster University.
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Lauren Monaghan always took a keen interest in computers and maths but the journey to higher education wasn’t easy: “I was diagnosed with a very rare brain tumour at age 12. Soon after, I went through two surgeries with the second leading to a number of complications and further medical conditions.

"I had to take time out of school to travel to the USA for trials and treatment, as well as to adjust to new medications to keep my body functioning. I still have rough days coping with the complications of my tumour, but I’ve learned to adapt and make the most of the good days.”

Lauren worked with a tutor from home to continue her studies and ensure she didn’t fall behind her classmates. It was at this stage that she was advised by her consultants to leave education after her GCSEs.

Lauren Monaghan graduates from Ulster University this summer with a degree in Computer Science. Credit UULauren Monaghan graduates from Ulster University this summer with a degree in Computer Science. Credit UU
Lauren Monaghan graduates from Ulster University this summer with a degree in Computer Science. Credit UU

"Despite the doctors’ advice, I knew I wanted to keep going, I wanted to do my A-Levels and go onto higher education. The number of complications after the surgery and

radiotherapy treatment I had undergone were challenging but I worked hard to catch up with classmates and get the grades I needed to move onto the next stage of my education.”

Lauren was on track to sit her A-Levels when another health issue, not connected to the brain tumour, was discovered. As a result, she was held back a year.

“Me and my family always joke that it wasn’t the very serious brain tumour that held me back a year but an unrelated medical problem that required surgery. No one saw that

coming,” she said.

Lauren received the necessary treatment, sat her A-Levels and was successful in her application to come to study at Ulster University in 2019. In the first semester of her first year, Lauren enjoyed campus life and her mum made the trip a few times a week from their home in Ballymoney to bring her to the Derry~Londonderry campus.

Then the Coronavirus pandemic struck in semester two, and Lauren’s learning was moved online for the rest of year one and all of year two.

After completing a placement as a software engineer in her third year, Lauren returned to campus for her final year and began thinking about what she wanted to do next.

“I was contacted on LinkedIn to apply for a two-year graduate programme at Citi. It was my very first graduate job interview so I was quite nervous!

"But I’m delighted to say I was successful with my application and I am due to start my role this September as a graduate software intern.”

Lauren is also involved in fundraising for various charities.

“I am currently a committee member for Brainwaves NI, a volunteer-led charity which funds research into brain tumours and provides support to brain tumour patients and

their families in Northern Ireland,” she said.

"I also perform with Cancer Fund for Children’s Care-Free Choir. This charity helped me connect with other young people who understood what I was going through. These charities – as well as Young Lives vs Cancer – supported me and my family which I am eternally grateful for.”

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