Posted on Tuesday 13 August 2019
Maisie’s story – thanks to CLIC Sargent’s support I’m pursuing my dream of becoming a solicitor
Maisie was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the start of her third and final year of studying for a history degree. Despite numerous hospital appointments and chemotherapy she continued studying and finished the course with an impressive 2:1.
Before she became unwell, Maisie had decided to pursue a career in law, after securing a place on a conversion course after graduation. But she was too unwell to proceed with training opportunities she had lined up.
Maisie’s savings took a hit as the costs of cancer added up, with travel to hospital, energy bills, and extra food to pay for. All of a sudden, she found herself unable to afford the fees for her conversion course. Last year she applied for CLIC Sargent and Societe Generale’s Thrive Not Just Survive grant, and was awarded a gold standard grant to go towards the fees, meaning she could take the next step to achieve her career ambition.
Maisie said: “Everything happened so quickly when I was diagnosed. A month earlier, I had dismissed increasing breathlessness as a lack of fitness, supposing that I just needed to get back to the gym. Then a lump emerged on the right-hand side of my neck. I was misdiagnosed with bronchitis and swollen glands and given a course of antibiotics, but I started to find it increasingly difficult to breathe I was sent to A&E. After another round of antibiotics failed to work, I was sent for an ultrasound, swiftly followed by a CT scan.
“The doctors told me they’d ruled everything out and now thought it was much more serious: that’s when they said cancer. And then I started to worry. I was in York hospital with my family in Surrey, 300 miles away but I was lucky enough to have my best friend by my side to support me from the beginning. I called my mum and told her to come the next morning – I didn’t think she needed to come straight away, to be honest I thought they’d probably got it wrong. I thought that cancer is something that happens to people you know of, it doesn’t happen to you. I was more angry than anything; I thought this just isn’t fair.
“The lump was growing and started pressing on my windpipe, so they had to transfer me to intensive care for two and a half weeks. That’s where they took the biopsy that confirmed I had cancer.
“I had chemotherapy every two weeks and lots of appointments in-between. It felt like I was basically spending my life in hospital. You can imagine that as a uni student in my final year it wasn’t really what I wanted. They told me I should probably just go home because we lived within about 30 minutes of the Royal Marsden hospital and I could get specialist treatment there. But I was determined to finish my degree and get it out of the way.
“Treatment was the worst thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life. I had all the usual side effects – I was tired, I lost my hair, I got sick a lot.”
Maisie finished treatment in March 2018 and was able to finish her degree, receiving an impressive 2:1 grade, which she is incredibly proud of.
Maisie said: “I look back on it now and I honestly don’t know how I did it, just the day-to-day things like getting the food shopping and making sure the house was clean. Even just getting myself to and from the hospital was an achievement.
“I’ve basically worked since I was 16, all through school and uni part-time. When I got diagnosed and I had to stop working I had to start dipping into that money for things like rent or transport, anything really. Because I’d worked for so long to build up that money it was frustrating that I had to keep taking from it. I was saving up for things like the law conversion course and just things in the future that I knew would be expensive.”
Despite securing a place on a law conversion course, Maisie didn’t think she would be able to afford to continue with her ambition of becoming a solicitor due to the cost of the course fees. Her CLIC Sargent Social Worker Lara told her about the charity’s new ‘Thrive Not Just Survive’ grant, launched in partnership with Societe Generale.
Maisie said: “I applied two days before the deadline and I never would have known about it if Lara hadn’t brought it to my attention. I was really struggling to find a way to fund the law conversion course so it came at the perfect time. I’d applied to so many firms for sponsorship and had been rejected because I didn’t have enough experience. The fact that I’d been diagnosed with cancer so couldn’t get the experience due to being ill didn’t seem to make much difference.
“When I found out that I’d been awarded the grant I couldn’t really believe it! I’d had so much rejection leading up to the application that I thought it would just be another barrier.”
Thanks to the Thrive Not Just Survive grant, Maisie began her law conversion course in January 2019, which she’s set to complete in around a month’s time. After that, Maisie is looking to secure a training contract with a legal firm before becoming a fully qualified solicitor.
Maisie said: “I love my course – it’s been hard but really good. It’s definitely been keeping me very busy! Earlier this year I completed an internship with a top firm and in July I had another week with a different company – none of this would’ve been possible without securing the Thrive Not Just Survive grant.
“I’m so grateful to CLIC Sargent and Societe Generale for this grant which is helping me to move forward with my life and career. Being able to do this course has just reinforced the fact that I want to become a solicitor and I definitely want to work in an area where I have lots of contact with people and feel as though I can really make a difference to their lives.
“For anyone who’s thinking of applying I would say go for it! It was a great experience. I never really imagined telling my story widely but being in front of the panel and being able to present myself and why this ambition was so important was great.”
Find out more about the Thrive Not Just Survive grant and how you can apply.