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Joanne Aug 21

Joanne, 53, recovers from tennis-ball sized brain tumour to secure University Place

JOANNE Garnett will start a degree at the age of 53 next month despite having to suspend her studies due to a tennis-ball sized brain tumour.

The Easingwold single parent, who has been the sole carer of her now teenaged autistic son since birth, has been offered a place on York College & University Centre’s BA 3D Creative Practice course, having recovered from two 12-hour operations to complete her Access to Higher Education Diploma.

Joanne returned to campus last September having been diagnosed with a brain tumour two-and-a-half years earlier.

By that point, in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, her studies at Sim Balk Lane had grown increasingly challenging, as she took “pain relief like sweets” just to get through her College days.

At other times, she would spend whole days vomiting and unable to get out of bed, as her migraines, dizzy spells and balance issues intensified.

Having previously dropped out of York College when she studied fashion design after leaving school at the age of 16, though, Joanne was determined to see this course through.

“If I'm honest, I didn't apply myself to that fashion course and left after a year,” she recalled. “It wasn’t the college’s fault at all. It was totally mine, but I vowed to return one day and, when I did, I loved it.

“I’ve worked in offices, as a cleaner and as a carer for my son. He is the most important person in my life and I wouldn't change him for the world, but studying at York College has provided me with another purpose and desire.”

Joanne’s extensive surgeries meant her jaw had to be broken to reach the tumour, requiring repairs to her skull, which included the insertion of metal plates.

“I’ll definitely bleep going through airport security,” added Joanne, who has never lost her sense of humour.

She has, however, been left with double vision if she looks to her right or downwards, a complete loss of hearing in one ear and continued balance issues, as well as no feeling at all in her left eye or the left side of her face.

None of those disabilities held her back, however, as she completed her access course studies.

Nor will they stand in her way as she begins her degree and looks to the future.

“After my surgeons had worked that length of time to give me my life back, I was determined not to be a victim, so I wanted to return to my studies and complete what I started and the college have been so supportive,” Joanne pointed out.

“I’ve always been interested in making masks and armour and maybe using my skills in film or theatre, but my future course may possibly take me in a different direction.”