Swansea University best friends battle illness to achieve their degrees

Best Uni friends Robyn and Olivia will be graduating together after they both battled the same illness while studying for their degrees.

They will both proudly be receiving their degrees at the Swansea University degree and award ceremony today (20 July) at the Great Hall, Bay Campus.  

Robyn Lock, aged 23 from Swindon and Libby Fox, aged 22 from Chester began their Marine Biology degrees in 2012 and immediately became best friends and were always very keen to learn.

Olivia Fox and Robyn Lock During the course of their studies, both Robyn and Libby were diagnosed with similar rare forms of cancer (Robyn - Hodgkins Lymphoma and Olivia non-Hodgkins Lymphoma) at different times, causing both of them to have to suspend their studies while they undertook treatment.

Their strength and dedication has been remarkable. Their treatment was quite harrowing, causing them both to lose all of their hair and feel quite unwell. Despite this they were committed to their studies, they returned to complete their third year and have both just graduated with a high 2i and exactly the same overall mark.

The Biosciences Department lecturers have fond memories of Robyn and Libby when they went to Puerto Rico on a tropical marine field trip. They were always in good spirits and worked very hard.

Despite everything they have been through they always wore a brave face, not wishing their peers or even their lecturers to know about their illness as they did not want any ‘special treatment’. Their bravery and dedication is inspirational and commendable.

Speaking about their journey Robyn said: “ The support from my department was unbelievable, during my treatment lecturers still kept in contact. Whether that was sending me papers I was interested in, updates to the department or just asking me how I was getting on. It motivated me to keep going and look to the future when I would be graduating from this amazing university. 

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kevin Flynn, Penny Neyland (my uni mum), Laura Roberts, Ian Horsfall, Naomi Ginniver and Liz Cozen, without whom I would not have come back to university studies, let alone graduate with a 2:1! 

“You guys are truly wonderful and I owe it to you that I am graduating today with a BSc in Marine Biology!”

And Olivia added: “I'm absolutely honoured to be considered as a student success story, I still can't believe I've actually made it to graduation! 

“Like anyone else, I never expected to have to take a gap year mid-degree but fortunately Liz Cozens and the entire department helped massively. Allowing my family and I to focus on treatment. During treatment I would receive regular emails from Penny and Laura, checking up on my progress and it was really encouraging to know I wasn't completely forgotten about!

“This continual support of Penny Neyland and Laura Roberts during my treatment was hugely appreciated and invaluable as I came back knowing I already had them to call upon if in need! Without them and support from my dissertation tutor Naomi Ginnever, I definitely would not have stayed to see the day I graduate! It was without doubt the hardest thing I've ever done, and I very nearly left university for good a few months after my return. 

“From tears to cups of tea they were not only there as tutors but became friends to help me with everything from the start of university and throughout my illness right up until the end! 

“I can't thank them enough and my 2:1 is definitely half due to them. “