Gillian beats Lyme disease and gains first-class degree

Aspiring actress and performer Gillian Swan of Earlston has just graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Performing Arts from Northumbria University, Newcastle.
Aspiring actress and performer Gillian Swan of Earlston has just graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Performing Arts from Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Aspiring Borders actress and performer Gillian Swan has beaten the odds to graduate with a first-class Bachelor of Arts honours degree in performing arts.

It is a far cry from 10 years ago when Gillian, of Earlston, was bed-ridden with a mystery illness initially thought to be chronic fatigue syndrome.

Gillian was eventually diagnosed as suffering from Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks found in woodland and heath areas, and she received treatment for it between 2011 and 2013.

Gillian has been on the long road to recovery ever since, and part of that recovery was to completely change direction career-wise.

Gillian explained: “I always wanted to go into acting, but as long as I had a good job, I opted for the security of a regular salary and pushed my dream to one side.

“However, due to ongoing illness, I took redundancy in 2010, and this led to me re-evaluating my life.

“To cut a long story short, I decided I had nothing to lose, took classes at Edinburgh Acting School for a year and, with encouragement from the then principal Kirsty Halliday, went on to pursue a degree in performing arts.”

Three years, and lots of hard work later, Gillian graduated from Northumbria University in Newcastle.

The university’s performing arts degree is delivered in association with Gateshead College, and curriculum leader Steve Forester-Melville said: “Gillian has done extremely well.

“In the 21 years since we started the course, we can count in single figures the number of firsts, and it is some years since we had our last one, so we are delighted for Gillian.

“Firsts are not awarded lightly, and her results pay testament to the great effort she put in.”

Gillian now has an agent to represent her and has as an unconditional offer from Northumbria University for its masters course in theatre and performance starting September.

She is also looking to develop drama therapy work with dementia sufferers.