In January 2019, with just 18 months of study remaining at the University of Southern Queensland’s Toowoomba campus, the mother of three was diagnosed with stage three invasive breast cancer.
“Life has thrown me a lot of curveballs, but the cancer diagnosis really knocked me,” Samantha said.
“I had to have surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and I had my last infusion in mid-2020 at the same time as sitting my final exams,” she said.
“I’ve never been one to brag, but I’ll gladly tell anyone who asks that despite everything I was up against in my final year, I still graduated with a 5.9 Grade Point Average.
“The $15,000 over three years from the Greenwood-Tomkys Fund helped me survive the 18 months of surgery and treatment, keep food on the table for my kids and still have that drive to finish my degree.”
The 38-year-old registered nurse graduated in July 2020 and started work straight away at the Oakey Hospital.
“Surviving cancer means I can empathise with those who find themselves in hospital,” Samantha said.
“I have a lived experience and after literally being on my death bed, I have a better understanding of what my patients and their families are going through, especially when the prognosis might not be positive,” she said.
“I absolutely love the Oakey Hospital, and I plan to do a Masters in Palliative Care in the next few years so I can move into working in that space long term."
There’s little doubt Samantha will achieve her goal, with an incredible mix of determination and ambition.
“I’ve raised three boys as a single mum, escaped an abusive relationship, survived cancer and studied throughout – I’ve always made sure that my boys can see me making that effort to lead by example and show them that no matter what happens in life, you can always turn it around into a positive,” she said.
“You just have to be like a shark – always keep moving forward!”
"You just have to be like a shark – always keep moving forward!”