Mum-of-four widowed at 27 graduates with master’s degree

Sandra Isirima, who lost her husband Michael to cancer, with their four young boys. Credit: Family photo

A mum of four has graduated with a master’s degree from Queen’s University, Belfast despite being widowed just eight months ago, after her husband encouraged her to keep studying.

Sandra Isirima says her world was shattered when her husband Michael was diagnosed with cancer.

He was studying for a PhD when he was told he only had a short time left to live.

Sandra Isirima with her husband Michael on their wedding day. Credit: Family photo

But Michael continued his studies from his sick bed and encouraged his wife to also keep up her efforts to earn her degree in Leadership for Sustainable Development.

Just eight months ago, at the age of 34, Michael passed away – leaving behind his 27-year-old widow and four young boys.


Whenever I take a look at my kids, I just have to be strong – I have to be brave.

Sandra Isirima

“It was like my whole world came to an end,” Sandra told UTV.

“I had so many plans for how my family should look like, how things were going to be. And all of a sudden, the cancer came and everything changed.

“My whole world just came to an end. I asked myself: ‘How do I survive?’”

Sandra admits that she has sometimes cried herself to sleep, but her resilience has fuelled her determination to keep going for the sake of her children.

The family pictured together in happier times. Credit: Family photo

Busy mornings in the Isirima household see Sandra get ready for work, while preparing the boys for the day ahead.

And her continued studies, as encouraged by her husband, have now paid off.

This week, Sandra graduated from Queen’s University’s School of Biological Sciences.

Even as the family begin a new chapter of their lives without Michael, he will never be forgotten.


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