July 20, 2024

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Law School Student Graduated While Undergoing Chemotherapy

4 min read
Law School Student Graduated While Undergoing Chemotherapy

Ali Moore was in the fourth week of her final semester of law school at the University of Sydney when her life took an unexpected turn.

In July 2023, the Sydney local discovered a painful lump in her breast. On the same day, Moore, then 28, underwent an ultrasound and biopsy. By August 2023, the law school student received the diagnosis of early breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, early breast cancer is “breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or the axillary lymph nodes.”

“My diagnosis came as a huge shock – I am a very healthy person who always focused on eating well, exercising, and looking after myself,” Moore, now 29, shares exclusively with PEOPLE in an interview. “I had run 10km just days before my diagnosis, and I’d only just returned from a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps.”

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Ali Moore sitting in the hospital room.

Courtesy Ali Moore


After her diagnosis, Moore’s parents immediately drove up to Sydney from rural NSW, and her boyfriend rushed to her side from work. Her mother eventually moved in, while her boyfriend ensured that stress was minimized in her life, focusing solely on her battle with cancer.

“Mum was so supportive that I actually forgot how to use the washing machine – but that’s a story for another day!” Moore says.

She also informed her workplace that she would no longer be able to work as a paralegal with them. Then, she had to decide whether she would continue with the full academic load at law school while undergoing treatment.

Her treatment plan included chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation and surgery, opting for a double mastectomy and reconstruction. The entire process would span approximately 12 months.

To her surprise, Moore’s oncologist encouraged her to maintain as normal a life as possible. “That really inspired me to give it a go,” Moore, who started law school in 2020 after leaving her job in corporate communications, says.

“Whenever I had doubts, my boyfriend was my cheerleader – he reminded me that I didn’t have to be perfect. While I usually worked hard to get good marks, all I needed to do during treatment was pass,” she adds.

Ali Moore during law school graduation.

Courtesy Ali Moore


Throughout her treatment, Moore received support from the University of Sydney and her law school friends, who offered assistance in any way they could.

“I found in-person exams difficult – in my final exam, I was really anemic because of the chemo, and it was an uphill battle to sit in a room for four hours and write pages and pages of answers and essays,” she recalls.

Ali Moore with her parents during law school graduation.

Courtesy Ali Moore


In May, Moore, who was still receiving chemotherapy treatment, walked the stage and received her diploma. She posted a video of her graduation festivities on TikTok, which has since gone viral, garnering over 500 thousand views and almost 600 comments.

Reflecting on the video, Moore never imagined it would go viral. She says she posted it to give hope to others going through chemo, reminding them that they can continue living their lives and pursuing their dreams despite difficult circumstances.

“I was proud of myself for pushing through when things got hard. I was just so happy to be standing beside my friends and celebrating with them,” she says. “I was reminiscing about the early days of law school when we would submit assignments just in time (and often through tears!)”

“I am really glad I made the decision to finish law school — it reminded me that I was more than just a health battle and that I was still an intelligent and capable person,” she adds.

Moore is now happy to share that she’s cancer-free. She’ll finish immunotherapy in September. Afterward, she plans to focus on self-care with professionals such as a cancer recovery coach, psychologist and acupuncturist.

In July, she plans to start a part-time job as a graduate lawyer at a corporate law firm in Sydney.

“I hope, first and foremost, that young women and men check their breasts and advocate for themselves at the doctor! It’s so important to listen to your body and be in tune with it,” she emphasizes.

“My advice for anyone else going through chemo is that they are stronger than they think they are. They can do hard things, and they will get through it,” she continues. “Look to messages of hope, not despair – and give yourself permission to laugh and experience joy every day.”

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