Cancer survivor graduates cum laude

Posted on May 11, 2018

In April 2016, during the final year of her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, Marilee Ohlhoff was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By this time, the cancer had already progressed to stage 4 and had entered her bone marrow and bone structure.

However, despite the severity of the diagnosis, her prognosis was good. She still had to receive the extensive BEACOPP, an invasive form of chemotherapy treatment that breaks the body down to a point where daily functioning becomes almost impossible.

Because of this, Ms Ohlhoff had to suspend her studies with immediate effect. The Head of the Department of Social Work and Criminology, Prof Antoinette Lombard, arranged a personal meeting with her to discuss how UP could support her to complete her degree once she regained her health. While receiving treatment, several faculty members contacted her to offer support and to follow her progress.

In what she describes as ‘both the best and the worst experience of [her] life,’ she was declared free of cancer at the end of 2016. This left her with an incredible sense of determination to seize every opportunity that presented itself. Despite the fact that her body was still quite weak, as her final chemotherapy session was in October 2016, she returned in 2017 to complete her degree, working with dedication, and made a huge impact in the Lethabong community where she initiated an income generation project. This was part of her internship at Kungwini Welfare Organisation.

Ms Ohlhoff says: ‘The University of Pretoria (UP) exceeded my expectations by offering opportunities that go far beyond its outstanding tertiary education.’ She further says that the curriculum of the BSW degree challenged her to look beyond her comfort and security and opened her eyes to the intricacies of world.

She says that at UP she was provided with a platform for both personal and professional growth that contributed greatly towards her graduating within the four years specified for her degree. She is grateful for the support of her lecturers and fellow students, without which it would not have been possible for her to graduate cum laude.

‘I would like to thank every lecturer and fellow student that empowered, equipped, encouraged and supported me – also my friends and family for their immeasurable love and support. Above all, I want to glorify God, my greatest encourager.’

- Author Myan Subrayan

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