A BRAVE student who completed his college courses while battling a brain tumour has been given a prestigious national award.
Lowton teenager Duncan Cathie was highly commended by the Association of Colleges in its Student of the Year awards after doing A-levels and contributing to the life of the college while undergoing medical care including a long operation.
Duncan, 19, was diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma in April 2012 after suffering severe headaches but refused to let that stand in the way of completing his A-levels in politics, geography and law at Priestley College in Warrington.
He was forced to spend his 17th birthday in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and had part of his brain tumour removed through a craniotomy, leaving him trying to cope with his lessons at Priestley while recovering from the intrusive surgery.
His courage has been rewarded as he has been told the tumour now only needs monitoring and his grades of an A and two Cs were good enough to secure him an internship at Priestley.
However, he modestly brushed away suggestions his remarkable achievements in battling through his difficulties were that unusual.
Duncan said: “It’s a real privilege to get the award but I don’t think I deserve to get something like that. I’ve just been doing what every other student with any sort of illness or disability has done.
“The judges were impressed with how I approached my work inside and outside of college, but I supposed I just coped and never saw myself as doing anything extraordinary.
“I had the craniotomy while I was at college and it was very hard. After the operation I was extremely fatigued and I also had memory loss, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to remember things for your exams.
“It was difficult just to stay awake during the whole day, especially as I was travelling to Warrington from Lowton every day on the bus.
“However, the hardest time of all was during my GCSEs because I was still doing all my subjects during the chemo and I had to do some in hospital.”
Former Golborne High School pupil Duncan also impressed the awards’ judges with his involvement in day-to-day life at Priestley College, which included chairing a special Question Time event around the elections when political candidates visited and serving on the college council.
He is now continuing his association with the college after becoming Priestley’s first student ambassador intern, which sees him support the current cohort of students and develop an alumni programme.
Duncan said: “All the extra things I did were my way of paying Priestley back for the help I received. I chose the college because of the support available here and without it I couldn’t have achieved what I did.
“I had been hoping to do an apprenticeship after college but didn’t get it so the principal said there might be something at Priestley and I should keep an eye on the website.
“The internship enables me to do the charity work I wanted to do, and I’m also working on the Prevent course safeguarding young people and preventing their radicalisation.
“It’s a lot of things I’ve been doing within college for two years and now I’m getting paid for it which is always a bonus.”
Priestley College principal Matthew Grant said: “Duncan was the perfect person to take on our first student internship and is doing a fine job so far. We are very proud of him and all that he has achieved.”