Michelle McLachlan is living proof that perseverance and passion will overcome adversity.
The 46-year-old mother of three teenagers is studying nursing at Federation University to fulfill a dream she has held all her life to become a nurse.
As if balancing family and study isn't a big enough juggle, Ms McLachlan is also undergoing radiation treatment for cancer and recovering from a stroke she suffered earlier this year.
But Ms McLachlan is not letting any of that stand in the way of her studies.
"I always wanted to be a nurse but unfortunately with three children and a police officer husband I was never able to fulfill that dream because of everything when the kids were young," she said.
"About four years ago I delivered a friend's baby by the side of the road which gave me the push to say 'I want to do this' and become a nurse."
Soon after the birth she enrolled in Federation University's online Bachelor of Nursing course which she has been studying from her home in Donald and the university's Wimmera campus in Horsham, with occasional trips to Ballarat to attend the Mount Helen campus.
"When I first told my family I got in to uni, my middle son thought it meant I was leaving to go to uni, so I had to explain to him I would be studying online ... and he was quite relieved," she said.
"Once I started studying I realised this was a good way of showing my kids that you can go back and achieve anything you want to be in life - there's no age limit."
It was in 2016, not long after she started studying nursing, that Ms McLachlan was diagnosed with cervical cancer after what she now realises were years of symptoms.
She took six months off studying to concentrate on her cancer treatment.
Ms McLachlan resumed her studies in 2017 and continued to work part-time to support her family and cover the cost of her medications until the strain of illness and frequent hospital visits forced her to leave her job in the local supermarket.
Last year she received the crushing news that the cancer had spread to the outside of her bowel.
"The doctor and a nurse came in my room, closed the door and then sat on the chair next to me. I knew something was not right and then I was told my cancer has spread. I was devastated," she said.
"I had to make a decision whether to continue to study or not ... but I want to show my family that cancer doesn't mean that you put your life on hold.
"I want to show them that you can do anything at any age. Nothing can stop you from what you want to do and there's always options."
Her resolve to continue was further tested earlier this year when she suffered a stroke as a result of her cancer treatment and medications. The stroke left her paralysed down her left side, which she has almost overcome, and memory loss.
"I think of something then it just completely goes. I'm trying to balance those sort of things but in saying that, university has been an absolutely fantastic support with everything I need to continue and be successful.
"There are horrible side effects as far as medications are concerned so it's a matter of trying to be strong and having a passion, but nothing is going to stop me from doing what I want to do."
With no job and Ms McLachlan relying on a non-PBS listed medication costing $3000 a month to keep her on top of her cancer fight, "it doesn't leave a lot of money at the end of the month for anything, let alone study", she said.
Ms McLachlan was this week awarded one of 25 Federation University Foundation Scholarships to support students in financial hardship. The scholarships range in value from $1000 to $7000.
"I had to look at what was available out there to help me to keep my study going, which is why I applied for the scholarship. I'm extremely thankful I was accepted.
"It will help me out tremendously with books and everything else that goes with fulfilling my dream of becoming a nurse. Financially for us it's extremely difficult trying to make ends meet."
Her son Callum, 17, travelled to Ballarat with her for the award ceremony.
"I realised there how proud my son was of his mum," Ms McLachlan said.
More than 25 Federation University students this week received scholarships from the uni to enable them to continue their studies.
"Far too often we see intelligent and determined students dropping out because of financial pressure. This is a great loss to the student, the university and society as a whole," said Fed Uni vice-chancellor and president Professor Helen Bartlett.
"Our Foundation Scholarships will provide much needed help, allowing our students to pursue their studies without stressing about finances. We want our scholarship recipients to follow their passion and take every opportunity offered to them."
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