An ambitious mother-of-four who overcame a series of tragic life events to get a university degree is now celebrating landing her dream job.
For 10 years, Charmaine Peploe, 39, who lives in Lower Reeve in Great Cornard with husband Tony, had dreamed of becoming a diagnostic radiographer.
Ever since working as a receptionist and administrator in the X-ray department at King’s College Hospital in London in 2002, the full-time mum had wanted to take up the profession herself.
She even started night classes in order to get the qualifications to start a university course.
However, her plans were put on hold when her daughter, Katie, was born with severe disabilities and later diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
Just two months later, Charmaine’s mum Mary Newcombe was diagnosed with terminal cancer and later died.
She said: “My whole world had dramatically changed in a very short time.
“My dream of going to university and studying was placed somewhere in the back of my mind and I became a full-time carer and mother.”
But in the summer of 2008, a conversation with her nephew Bradley Newcombe, who was about to start university himself, led to her pursuing her forgotten dream again.
She said: “I told Bradley about my old dream, he was so surprised at this, and even more so when I said it was something that I had once wanted but could now never achieve.
“A quick look on the internet and he found the exact course I wanted to do at University Campus Suffolk (UCS) in Ipswich and he talked me into giving them a call.”
After speaking to one of the senior lecturers at the university, her hopes and dreams of becoming a radiographer resurfaced.
In September, 2009, Charmaine walked into the campus’ Waterfront Building for the first time, and her life changed forever.
She said: “Starting a degree was not a decision to be taken lightly. I had four children ranging from 19 months to 14 years, one of whom had severe disabilities.
“I had so many questions: How could I do this? Was it at all possible? Was I too old? Was I just being unrealistic? I didn’t know if I could do it, all I knew was that I wanted to.”
Sadly, the family’s run of bad luck resurfaced and a few months after starting her first clinical placement in 2009, Charmaine’s daughter Katie was diagnosed with pneumonia.
Then at the start of her second year, her father died.
Charmaine admits that she struggled to pick herself up from this latest tragedy and very nearly ditched her dream but said the support of her family, her colleagues at university and her teachers, helped her to keep at it.
This month, she attended her graduation ceremony and walked away with a BSc (Hons) in diagnostic radiography.
Jane Harvey-Lloyd, senior lecturer at UCS, said: “Her steely determination to succeed was admired by the clinical staff, the academic team and, most of all, her peer group.
“I am proud of Charmaine’s achievement but also of the academic and clinical teams who have offered her support along the way.”
Since qualifying, Charmaine has started her dream job as diagnostic radiographer at the Oaks Hospital in Colchester.
Her success has also inspired her eldest son, Jordan Pickett, 18, to start a full-time arboriculture course at Otley College.
There was another cause for family celebration on Friday, as a sensory room designed to aid Katie’s development was fitted at the Peploes’ home.
The family raised more than £7,000 for the facilities with their Bear Around the World campaign in 2008 and 2009, in which a cuddly bear accompanied people on their travels and holidays across the globe, earning sponsorship and donations along the way as he clocked up more than 150,000 miles for Katie.
“It is brilliant as it will stimulate her mind,” said Charmaine. “A lot of Sudbury people raised an awful lot of money for Katie.”
The room features lights that react to Katie’s voice, projections and mirrors to help Katie learn to communicate and respond to stimulus.