The last time John Maunder graduated from The University of Queensland, it was the same day he become one of the 120,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia each year.
This time around, he’s qualifying as a doctor and survivor of nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer.
He graduates this Tuesday 13 December at 6pm with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at UQ Centre, St Lucia Campus.
John said it was on the day of his engineering graduation he learned the test results of his biopsy for a lump that surgeons had told him was ‘likely to be nothing’.
“I was at the Regatta Hotel having a beer with my friends and family before the ceremony and I got the call,” John said.
“My doctor told me the pathology results from my tests actually showed I had blood cancer and I was to see an oncologist immediately.
“I can’t really explain how I felt after this, I returned to my table where lunch had arrived, told my parents and cried.”
After the initial shock of the news, John had another decision to make upon finding out he had successfully earned a spot in medical school.
“Throughout my engineering degree I was never satisfied that would be my career, I had always toyed with the idea of studying medicine so I ended up sitting the GAMSAT test before I graduated,” John said.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I got in.
“The thing about medicine is you can’t defer your place for six months and you can’t take on half loads of work, which makes it difficult when you’re facing chemotherapy.”
Not wanting to delay his career any further, John decided to accept his place in the medical course while fighting cancer and undergoing intensive treatments.
“I had intensive chemo for six months, which was also the first semester of my medical studies.
“I’d have chemo every Friday, be wrecked all weekend, then have to front up for class on Monday.”
John’s inspirational commitment means he has now completed his medical degree and has secured a placement on the Sunshine Coast next year.
In addition to full time study and treatment John has been an active fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation, raising over $100,000 for the charity through events like World’s Greatest Shave.
“I’m so grateful to my friends, family, doctor and the community who helped me over the last few years,” John said.
John is now in remission but requires six-monthly check-ups. He still has some words of wisdom for students going through rough times.
“It’s important to remember if you’re struggling or don’t know what to do, to ask for help.
“There are people around you who know more than you and you should always seek their knowledge whether the issue is big or small, know that it’s okay to talk to someone.”