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A woman who battled cancer while studying for a university degree in the Highlands hopes her experience can inspire others to follow their dreams

By Imogen James

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Sarah Altman.
Sarah Altman.

Sarah Altman, from Gollanfield, graduated from the Open University (OU) this year with a first class degree in environmental management and technology.

The 46-year-old studied for the qualification over seven years in total, during a very turbulent time in her life.

A single mother with three children – Noah, Leo and Hannah – just two years into her studies she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Despite the diagnosis and the treatment that followed she was determined not to give up, even taking an exam just 10 days after surgery.

Sarah with her kids.
Sarah with her kids.

“I have had several surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy,” she said. “This while raising three amazing children as a single parent and working full time meant studying became a wee bit of a challenge! I studied when the kids were asleep, lunchtime, train travel, in the car waiting outside for school pick-up, any time I could squeeze it in.

“The support I got from the OU enabled me to continue studying, and this year I finally got to reap the rewards of all these years of hard work.”

Her degree has already helped her career.

Ms Altman previously worked in admin at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, but now works in the Water Environment Fund researching and restoring rivers.

“Studying with the OU has definitely helped me to secure a new job role and as I studied it helped me at work, building my skills and confidence all round.

“It has given me so much more than I thought it would.

“It has built my confidence and self-belief and I am so proud of myself for achieving my qualification.”

Her health is looking up now, with no evidence of disease. Ms Altmas is looking forward to life ahead, dating, and she aims to help other women in similar situation's.

She added: “I am so grateful to the breast clinic at Raigmore Hospital. They are a special kind of human.”

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