Renee masters studies despite oddsRENEE EDWARDS has not allowed obstacles like Bell’s palsy, which still affects her, to thwart her academic success. ((Picture by Gercine Carter.))
By GERCINE CARTER | Sun, October 28, 2012 - 12:01 AM
The road to a Master’s degree with a distinction has not been an easy one for Renee Edwards, but it has proven to be the boon to her self-confidence.
For the mother of an eight-year-old son, the achievement crowns years of battling low self-esteem.
It represents a triumph over the periods when she balanced studies with caring for her sick child and battled chicken pox and Bell’s palsy, which continues to affect her.
Renee recently graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus with a Master’s degree in management with distinction, winning the specialization Student Of The Year Award.
She told the SUNDAY SUN she was driven by the determination to be an independent person and the desire to be an example for her son.
The path to this point has however been full of obstacles. Renee first acquired an associate degree in mass communications after leaving The St Michael School, but found a job in banking. She decided she needed “to do something else to fall back on”.She joined the Human Resources Department of The Nation Publishing Company and began studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in management at UWI.
Two years into the programme she became pregnant.
“I was still at UWI, so I thought I would just take a couple of days off after I gave birth and go back into it,” she said.
That was not to be. Her son Aundre was born two months prematurely. Doctors noticed a very small lump on his back but were not alarmed and simply decided to monitor it.
However, the rapid growth led to an operation to remove the lump when Aundre was just four months old, and Renee was devastated by the subsequent news that it was cancerous.
She was relieved when a battery of tests done by the Miami Children’s Hospital, where she took him, indicated it was not cancer but fibromatosis, a very aggressive benign tumour with a fast growth rate. Following that diagnosis, mother and son had to repeatedly go back to the Miami Children’s Hospital for follow-up monitoring and care.
“Because of all this I took a year off from studying. Aundre’s father said I should take the time off until Aundre started primary school,” she reported.
But Renee resisted the suggestion. She was determined to complete her studies and co-ordinated visits back to Miami with Aundre with vacations away from university.
As if coping with her sick son was not enough, in 2007 she came down with Bell’s palsy, and she confessed her confidence “took a dive”.
Her doctor said the condition may have been the result of stress or the chicken pox she had contracted when Aundre was nine months old.
She had to stand before fellow students doing presentations, having to face classes of her peers with a mouth that would often swing to one side when she spoke, with slurred speech that made it difficult for her to be understood, and with one eye looking smaller than the other.
Yet she persevered and even as she spoke to the SUNDAY SUN there was visible evidence that she was still affected by Bell’s palsy.
Looking back, she says: “Studying and working and raising a child and having all that emotional trauma on your brain, it takes a toll on you.”
But she managed to complete that degree, graduating with first class honours.
She thanks her family and fellow students for the support that helped her to get through this difficult period.
“I was saying that’s it, but my mother who was always studying convinced me to take it a step further,” she pointed out.
Two years ago she enrolled for the Master’s degree in management with a specialization in human resources management. By that time her son had fully recovered.
Now that it’s over, Renee says: “I did it for Aundre because I want him to grow up with the discipline that he can get whatever he sets his mind out to achieve because you don’t always get what you wish for, but you do get what you work for and I can attest to that. He was my inspiration because I want a better life for him.
“I found that when I was going through school I had very low self-confidence so I am trying to develop him in terms of social development. A lot of people don’t realise that a low self-esteem can stop them from doing a lot of things.
“My confidence has helped me achieve what I have achieved today.”
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