I was 21 when I got ill. I went to bed with a sore throat, and when I eventually woke up it felt like I’d lost months of my life. They didn’t know what was wrong with me, they just knew I wasn’t going to make it.
I vividly remember my eldest, who was four, coming to the hospital. He’d been told it was time to say goodbye. But I’m glad he defied everyone. Because instead of getting closure, he ordered me straight home because he didn’t have any socks.
His tiny socks, full of huge determination, still give me strength to fight and stay alive every day. My illness is auto-immune, so the common cold can kill me. But even now, I always carry his baby sock in my purse.
Fighting for my family will always be part of who I am. When the doctors told me not to carry my last two children, I had them anyway. Studying law gives me a platform to fight for others too. My husband always jokes with me: “To get paid to argue, that’s your ideal job.” Although he teases, he knows that it’s fighting for what’s fair that has me hooked. My eldest son and I had to fight for custody of his three-year-old daughter. It was this process that inspired me to study law.
I chose ARU because they gave me the chance to fight for my own education. ARU was the first university that looked past the fact I hadn’t studied since my GCSEs. The Head of School said: “I’ll give you 48 hours to do a 2,000-word essay on ‘What is law?’ to see if you’re ready.” I did it, and they immediately offered me a degree place at a campus of my choosing.
Last semester, I got very ill again, and ARU kindly gave me an extension. In truth, because of my condition, I can have one every semester, but I’m determined to only use it the once. I’m quite stubborn. My son constantly reminds me that it’s not special treatment, as it levels the playing field, but I’m determined that I earn my degree from the same level as everyone else. Although, I do take full advantage of my parking space on campus…
As well as the support, the course continues to excel my academic, mental and physical abilities. It gives my brain a focus, and something to work towards. I can’t express how much I love it. The course, the subject, the people. I just can’t fault it – but I’m the President of the Law Society in Chelmsford, and my course's appointed ‘uni mum’ so maybe I’m biased!
I’m excited to graduate, there are a wealth of opportunities on offer from here. With that said, I’m actually going to stay and do my Masters. I’m just so in love with learning.
Throughout my illness and the balancing act that being a mother of four in education and part-time work presents, I have learned many things. But perhaps most importantly, it’s the ability to turn my biggest weakness into my strength. You can achieve anything if you want it enough. You just have to approach it in a different way and accept that some fights won’t change anything – but you still fight them regardless.
I made a choice. I could either give up or just make the most of everything – so that’s what I’ve always done, and will continue to do with the future I’ve earned.
Lisa-Marie Dixon studies LLB (Hons) Law at ARU. We have places available in Clearing: apply today to start in September.