11 April 2016: For single mum Tanya Stiller, graduating from the University of Canberra after five years of study while living with a rare health condition and caring for three children with special needs, is a wonderful reward.
The 43-year-old graduated with a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics after completing a Graduate Diploma in Nutritional Science in 2013, and is now working as an accredited practising dietician at Nutrition Professionals Australia. All while living with a rare degenerative health condition, that has only affected 100 people worldwide.
"I became a single mother in my last semester of the graduate diploma and have a rare degenerative health condition called Andersen-Tawil syndrome, which made life very challenging," she said.
"I took each day as it came, tried not to get ahead of myself so I didn't get overwhelmed. My degree gave me so much positivity at a time in my life that had so much turmoil."
Andersen-Tawil syndrome is a rare genetic disorder, which causes episodes of paralysis, muscle weakness, arrhythmia and developmental abnormalities.
During her studies, Ms Stiller's children were also diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
"It was very challenging but I was very motivated to succeed especially as I had young children who were relying on me," she said.
She said the support and flexibility she received from the University during her studies was crucial.
"My unit and course conveners were very understanding and flexible. They worked with the University's Welfare and Inclusion team to ensure I received the support I needed."
Ms Stiller said she knew she made the right decision to continue with her Masters when she heard her eight-year-old son telling his classmates how proud he was that his mum was at university studying to become a dietitian.
"If I can inspire a lifelong love of learning in them and encourage them to never give up on achieving their dreams then I will be happy," she said.
Ms Stiller said what she enjoyed most about the degree was how practical the course was and the hands on experience it provided.
"When I did my placement at the UC student led clinic, I was able to apply the knowledge and skills I gained from the theoretical first half of the degree in a real world context."
"I felt like a dietitian and it only confirmed to me I had made the right choice in career," she said.
Ms Stiller works at two medical practices and an allied health clinic and has a special interest in gastrointestinal disorders, food allergies and intolerances and maternal and child health.
"I provide clients with the knowledge and skills to autonomously manage their health conditions using nutrition," she said.
"There is nothing more rewarding than seeing my clients achieve their goals and knowing that I've been a part of that."
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