A diagnosis of a rare cancer was not enough to stop Graham achieving his dream of becoming a writer.
A diagnosis of a rare cancer was not enough to stop Graham achieving his dream of becoming a writer.
15 December 2014

A diagnosis of a rare cancer was not enough to stop University of Queensland valedictorian Graham Akhurst achieving his dream of becoming a writer.

Graduating from UQ with a Bachelor of Creative Arts tomorrow, Graham enrolled as a mature-aged student in 2012, despite still recovering from the effects of chemotherapy for Burkitts Lymphoma.

“Burkitts Lymphoma is rarely seen outside African children but a slight genetic susceptibility due to my Aboriginal heritage saw me contract it,” Graham said.

Graham spent long stints in hospital during an intensive 10-month treatment period, giving him plenty of time to think about his future.

He decided to pursue his passion for creative writing. 

“My first year was physically difficult as the chemotherapy had left my body very weak,” he said.

“But mentally I had never felt better.

“After being in isolation for so long, it was a real pleasure to be introduced to so many like-minded people who were excited to learn and develop.

Graham was awarded an EOH scholarship to assist with his studies.

He forged ties with UQ’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit and is now a unit ambassador.

Graham’s publishing career is underway, and the online literary journal Connect the Dots will publish one of his creative non-fiction pieces in its December edition.

It will be his third publication since the start of his degree. The other published works were a memoir piece for Lymphoma Australia and a travel piece for Mascara Literary Review.

Associate Dean (Academic) for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Associate Professor Julie Duck said Graham’s story was inspirational.

“Overcoming illness, discovering a passion for writing and then working to complete his degree, Graham is a wonderful ambassador for his cohort of UQ graduates,” Dr Duck said.

Graham said to be named valedictorian for his ceremony was “an absolute honour.”

“I hope that future students are willing to embrace the challenge of higher education because it is immensely rewarding and something that nobody can take away from you,” Graham said.

Graham hopes to continue with his studies next year with honours in creative writing and hopefully a Masters or PhD in the future. 

Media: Graham Akhurst – (E) graham.akhurst@uqconnect.edu.au or (M) 0438 773 549 or Kristen Johnston (Faculty Communications) T. (07) 3346 1633 or (E) k.johnston@uq.edu.au.