Graduand no stranger to realities of her field

Former University of Otago student Adiella White prepares to graduate from the university today, while her sister, Maysie White, records the achievement for posterity. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Former University of Otago student Adiella White prepares to graduate from the university today, while her sister, Maysie White, records the achievement for posterity. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

All University of Otago bachelor of radiation therapy students undertake extensive clinical training, but Adiella White has gained some extra experience her colleagues do not share.

When Miss White (25) gains a bachelor of radiation therapy degree at Otago University today, she will be among more than 200 people graduating in person in several disciplines, including law and health sciences, in a ceremony at the Dunedin Town Hall at 4pm.

During her recently completed three-year radiation therapy course, she received radiation therapy herself, as a patient, in late 2012 and early 2013, to counter a recurrence of an earlier malignant melanoma.

A keen tramper and runner, she is now enjoying good health and in March she ran the Motatapu Marathon, near Wanaka.

She was ''thoroughly chuffed to be graduating'' and was ''really looking forward to having a catch-up with all the classmates''.

She began her initial Otago studies in 2007, completing a bachelor of physical education honours degree in 2010.

That year, she had a mole removed from her shoulder.

She subsequently decided to pursue a radiation therapy degree, at Otago University's Wellington campus.

Halfway through that second degree, she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and a lump was removed from under her arm in late 2012.

''As you can imagine, my response to the situation was initially of shock and a feeling of fear.''

And later she had the ''unique experience of being a patient receiving radiation treatment for four weeks whilst studying towards gaining a degree in radiation therapy''.

Miss White, who now works as a radiation therapist at Christchurch Hospital, underwent radiation therapy at St George's Cancer Care Centre, in Christchurch.

She had earlier spent time at that centre during a hospital placement as part of her course. But she was ''determined'' to finish her degree and ''not take extra time to do it in''.

She is particularly grateful for the ''strong support'' she received from her fiance, Rob Stewart, and from family and friends.

''I feel extremely lucky to have such an amazing family, friends and fiance.''

Otago University, St George's Hospital and Christchurch Hospital had also been been ''outstandingly supportive'' over the past 18 months.

She not only completed her degree without any substantial delays, but she also won academic prizes in the last two years of her degree.

Her Christian faith and the strong overall support she received had helped her meet the challenge.

''It makes you value the right things; it makes you value people.''

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz