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A decade of dreaming becomes a reality

A full-time mum who dreamed of becoming a qualified Diagnostic Radiographer 10 years ago, has overcome tragedy, life changing obstacles and personal heartache to achieve her goal. Charmaine Peploereceived a BSc (Hons) Diagnostic Radiography award.

Charmaine has been pursuing her dream ever since starting work as a receptionist and administrator in the X-ray department at Kings College Hospital in London in 2002.

"I always wanted to train as a radiographer", she said.

"Whilst working full time in the department, I attended college in the evenings to gain the required qualifications with the intention of going to university the following year."

Midway through her course however, Charmaine fell pregnant with her second child and decided to postpone starting a degree until 2004. Unfortunately, In September 2003, those plans were put on hold when her daughter (Katie) was born with severe disabilities and later diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

Two months after Katies arrival, as a whole family we were just learning to cope and come to terms with her disabilities and uncertain future, when my Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer; my whole world had dramatically changed in a very short time.

After her mothers passing 12 months later, Charmaine and her young family moved back to Suffolk to be nearer the rest of their family.

During this difficult time, Charmaines dream of going to university and studying diagnostic radiography was placed somewhere in the back of her mind and forgotten about as she now became a full time carer and mother to Katie, her eldest son Jordan, and soon also to twins Aaron and Amy as their family grew very quickly with their birth in 2007.

It wasnt until the summer of 2008 and a visit from her nephew, who was about to leave for university himself, that Charmaine began to think about pursuing her dream again.

I told him about my old dream, he was so surprised at this, and even more so when I said it was something that I had once wanted but could now never achieve. A quick Google and he announced that locally in Ipswich, the university did the exact course I wanted to do and talked me into giving them a call just to enquire.

After speaking with one of the senior lecturers for the radiography programme here, her hopes and dreams of becoming a radiographer resurfaced.

"I was invited to apply through UCAS clearing and to attend an interview at the university. Still unconvinced this was a possibility; I attended the interview with an open mind, and was amazed when I was offered a place on the course, to start in 2 weeks.

After considering her options, Charmaine decided to defer for a year in order to give her time to prepare and plan for this big step.

"Starting a degree was not a decision to be taken lightly; I had 4 children ranging from 19 months to 14 years, one of whom had severe disabilities. I had so many questions: How could I do this? Was it at all possible? Was I too old? Was I just being unrealistic? I didnt know if I could do it, all I knew, was that I wanted to."

Twelve months later, in September 2009, Charmaine walked into the Waterfront Building for the first time, and her life changed forever.

"I can honestly say, it wasnt easy getting through the last three years, I had my fair share of obstacles along the way, and very nearly gave it all up on more than one occasion."

"Katie was admitted into hospital with Pneumonia during the winter of 2009, just weeks after starting my first clinical placement. My father suddenly became unwell and passed away at the start of the second year and I really struggled to pick myself up from this. In the third year, my mother in law very suddenly passed away after no illness at all, and weeks later we were told that Katies prognosis was not good and we were only looking at 2-3 more years with her."

"Without the support and encouragement from the radiography staff, especially the course leader, both my clinical lecturers, the amazing friends I had made in my fellow radiography students, and the fantastic support from my family, I know I would have given up. Therefore, when I stand there at the graduation ceremony and receive my award, I know I will be the happiest and proudest person there in finally achieving my dream."

Jane Harvey-Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in Diagnostic Radiography, said: "Charmaines commitment was obvious from the outset as she made every effort to attend university despite her family pressures. Overcoming the personal challenges she faced, Charmaine found inner strength to continue and by the middle of the second year, her confidence began to develop and she began to achieve some excellent marks."

"She continued, Her steely determination to succeed was the admired by the clinical staff, the academic team and most of all, her peer group. I am proud of Charmaines achievement but also of the academic and clinical teams who have offered her support along the way. Charmaines award represents all those health professionals across the country that deliver such high quality care despite the obstacles they face."

Since qualifying in June, Charmaine has started her dream job as Diagnostic Radiographer at the Oaks Hospital in Colchester. Her success has also inspired her eldest son, who is now 18, to start a fulltime Arboriculture course at Otley College.