A PHARMACY graduate made it through her degree– despite an 18month emotional rollercoaster– thanks to the support of her lecturers and fellow students.

Yasmine Haq's mum Denise was diagnosed with cancer and lost her battle just weeks before the 24-year-old graduated from the University of Sunderland. Caring for her mum took its toll on Yasmine, from Spennymoor, during her studies and exams.

However, she said: “The lecturers were amazing, they were so kind and understanding and gave me so much support every step of the way. The life-long friends I made on the course were always there for me too, whether it was taking down notes or just updating me on what was happening I never felt alone and can’t thank them all enough for getting me through one of the most difficult times of my life.”

She added: “I didn’t want mum to give up fighting cancer, so I couldn’t give up either, even though there were days when I just thought I couldn’t carry on. She was so frightened at times and I knew I had to get the job done for her. The morning before she died I was sat in the hospice revising until 2am, by 10.30am she had passed away with me and my sister Nadia at her side, she was just 55 years old.”

Yasmine showed such resolve during the last months of her degree that she won graduation award– the Jemma O'Sullivan Award for Care and Compassion in the Practice of Pharmacy.

The award is presented each year to a graduate who has demonstrated these qualities during their degree course. Jemma O’Sullivan was just 22 when she was killed in a motorway crash in 2010. To mark a lasting legacy for Jemma, her parents Vincent and Margaret, sponsor this special award each year.

“It means so much to be recognised by the university in this way. I don’t know how I would have coped without the support of my lecturers. I pushed myself and am proud to have walked away with a 2:2. My mum always wanted me to have my own career, and that’s why I kept going.”

Dr Adrian Moore, head of school– pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences at Sunderland, said: “Yasmine fully deserves this award, she has been through so much over these last 18 months, coping with her mum’s cancer diagnosis.

“She showed incredible resilience, and we were all hugely impressed by her determination to complete her course while caring for her mum.

“Thanks must also go to our students on this course who are all very close knit and really supported Yasmine in the months leading up to graduation.”

She is now training as a community pharmacist at Eilbeck Deneside pharmacy in Seaham, working alongside her father Zia, who is also a pharmacist and a Sunderland graduate.

She said: “It’s great to be working alongside my dad, he’s so proud of what I’ve achieved. He was happier about my results than I actually was. We have all been through so much together since mum’s diagnosis. I have had to do so much growing up.”

Also working part-time at the pharmacy is 21-year-old sister Nadia, studying pharmacy in Liverpool.

Yasmine says: “Pharmacy really runs through our family. My mam was a dispenser when she met my dad after they began working together all those years ago.”

However, Yasmine admits that her road to university wasn’t straight forward. Having performed poorly during her science-based A-levels, she says felt lost at the time and didn’t really know what she wanted from a career, so took a year out.

She worked for a year in the Stockton pharmacy branch of the company she’s currently based at in Seaham, gaining a host of practical skills and experience. She then successfully completed a Foundation Course at Sunderland College, which led to the Pharmacy MPharm degree at Sunderland.

She explains: “I learned quickly from my mistakes during my A-levels and that year out I wanted to prove myself. It also allowed me the time to know what I wanted to do. I didn’t enjoy failing and would not let it happen again. The Foundation Year also guided me easily into university.

“I hope all I have achieved is making a difference. Everyone knows someone close to them affected by cancer, I hope my story offers comfort and support to another family going through the same thing.”

She added: “My mum had never been ill in her life, but she started losing weight and suffered menopausal symptoms, then a minor procedure to her bowel picked up the rare form of liver cancer, she may have had a chance had it been picked up earlier. I would say to anyone showing similar symptoms to get themselves checked as early as possible.”