UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 27 OCTOBER
A BCU Alumna who has fought cancer twice and has heart failure is now using her experiences to inspire the next generation of health workers.
Mercia Jensen, who graduated with a first-class honour’s degree in Nursing in 2017 and completed a postgraduate certificate in Public Health earlier this year, faced a series of challenges to get to where she is today.
Growing up, Mercia was diagnosed with dyslexia and had a hearing impediment, which resulted in her school years being incredibly difficult.
She said: “I'd always wanted to attend university, but I didn't believe I'd be able to due to my dyslexia and hearing impairment.
“But BCU drew me in because it aimed to assist students with impairments. I was accepted to another university, but I chose BCU as other students told me that they had been supported during their studies.
“I was ecstatic to be able to attend university, I finally had equal access to education as everyone else.”
But alongside her Nursing degree, Mercia was fighting her own health battles. She was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer twice, the first being in her twenties, and again in her thirties.
After getting the all clear, Mercia was inspired to become a Cancer Research Campaign Ambassador, and recently travelled to the Houses of Parliament to hand in the petition for improved cancer treatment.
She said: “My cancer diagnosis taught me the value of life. I was fortunate to be diagnosed early, and so now I work with Cancer Research UK to reform legislation to ensure that every patient is detected early and receives the necessary care that they deserve.”
After graduating, Mercia became a Nurse at a local hospital, but during Covid-19 lockdown, she was inspired to return to BCU to complete a postgraduate certificate in Public Health.
She said: “One of the reasons I was drawn to this course was the desire to effect change. Following Covid-19, hospital waiting lists increased, and many patients were having to see their GPs several times before their concerns were addressed.
“As a Nurse, I witnessed children having to wait over two years for treatment. The horrors of lockdown really taught me the value of public health.”
But during her studies, Mercia was diagnosed with heart failure after bad reaction to a vaccine. She was taken to hospital with a life-threatening episode and almost died.
Mercia now lives with heart failure, but she has not let this stop her in her career goals, thanks to the support she gained from BCU.
She said: “I was grateful to the university for providing every single assistance for a student who had a life-threatening event during their course; they were pleased to support me and eager to listen.
“It was a particular challenge because my study was through Covid-19 and lockdown, but when I went to my graduation, I was so pleased to just be alive and be able to walk across the stage.”
Since graduating, Mercia has become a clinical Lead Nurse in the NHS, alongside her campaigning work with Cancer Research UK.
She said: “The most difficult aspect of my chosen profession is my hearing impairment and dyslexia, as well as dealing with ableism. Many people incorrectly assume that I acquire employment or opportunities just for being disabled and ticking a box and cannot accept that I work hard.
“I can't battle everyone else's perception of myself, therefore the only way I can overcome these obstacles is to keep living my life. I do, however, speak out against systematic structural barriers that impact people like me.”
Mercia has a huge amount to be proud of and is a hoping to achieve even more in the future.
She said: “My best achievement is simply being alive, and I am the mother of two wonderful children too.
“I wish to live a fulfilling life, but my goal and passion is my work as a Cancer Research campaign ambassador which I will do as long as I live. I will continue to advocate for greater funding, more healthcare workers, and ensuring that people do not have to wait too long for cancer treatments.
“As a survivor, I feel duty to advocate for all those who did not get the chance to live.”