She only has 75% of her brain after surgeries to remove tumours. But, Amy Martin now has a PHD

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  • A PhD graduate from Stellenbosch University has only 75% of her brain capacity.
  • Dr Amy Martin has four titanium plates and 16 titanium screws in her skull.
  • She has been living with brain tumours since the age of 14.

How much can you achieve with four titanium plates in your skull, an additional 16 titanium screws, and only 75% of your original brain capacity?  

Amy Martin has been suffering from life-threatening brain tumours, but that hasn't stopped her from completing her PhD in Ancient Cultures at Stellenbosch University.

'It was difficult to stay motivated'

The 33-year-old obtained her degree despite a challenging young-adult life. She had to undergo multiple operations to remove tumours, causing side effects that led to severe epilepsy and muscular damage.

Fortunately, with the help of physiotherapy, she has overcome severe physical disabilities. 

Martin says she was diagnosed at what would be an "important phase" of a teenager's life, and it was emotionally and physically exhausting, as well as challenging, making learning extremely difficult

"There was a drop in my marks as I struggled to concentrate in class throughout my high school years; it was difficult to stay motivated."

Obvious scars

While she could mask her fears of having the next seizure in public, her shaven head displayed her scars and drew unwanted attention from insensitive peers. 

"I was often too scared to leave the house because of my epilepsy. I often felt tired and defeated, and the pain was sometimes unbearable. 

"But I had a strong support network that helped pull me through," she says.

graduate, brain tumour, phd, lady
Amy Martin, PhD graduate.

'I pushed myself to be the best'

High school may not have been the smoothest journey for Martin, but things became a lot easier when she started her undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University. 

"At university, I felt almost 'freed' from the academic space I endured during high school. I had the freedom to decide which route I wanted to go with my studies and what I was passionate about."

With one degree in the bag, the linguist embarked on a two-year teaching journey in South Korea. She then obtained her honours and master's degrees, but she didn't stop there.

Amy says that during her postgraduate studies, she pushed herself and excelled. 

"I always had this drive to show everyone that despite suffering from severe brain trauma, I could still accomplish all my dreams.

"The support and encouragement I received from the Stellenbosch University community allowed me to follow my dreams." 

Not the end of the road

Despite suffering from fatigue and occasional dizzy spells, Martin went on and enrolled for her PhD. She says that jogging helps to keep her fit and has also helped with her balance. 

"In time, I learned that having 75% of my brain was part of my personality; it was a part of me. It shaped me to be who I am and forged my path to some extent, but it would not define me. It would not dictate where I was going with my future." 

Receiving her PhD is not the end of the road for the travel enthusiast. Martin has her sight on teaching in South Korea once again and is ready to soak up some ancient sites in Greece and Italy.

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