It is no small achievement for a mother of three children under the age of 10 to earn a master's degree.
For 43-year-old Tanya Stiller, the achievement is made even more remarkable in that she has done it as a single mum while battling a rare and degenerative disease which causes her debilitating pain and sometimes paralysis.
Ms Stiller's inspirational battle to climb an academic summit after five long years of study ended on Wednesday evening when she donned her gown and cap and accepted her master's degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Canberra in a ceremony at Parliament House.
Her three children, 10-year-old Lachlan, 8-year-old Riley and 6-year-old Lily were there to cheer her on.
"Really I have done this for my children. To show them persistence and how to strive to reach a goal, even when there are hurdles in the way," Ms Stiller said.
Those hurdles may have stopped a lesser woman in her tracks.
Ms Stiller's marriage ended in her last semester of the graduate diploma in 2012 and it was such a stressful time that she wondered whether she could begin her masters.
All the while she has also had to manage an extremely rare and degenerative health condition called Andersen-Tawil syndrome. Only 100 people in the world are thought to have the genetic disorder, which causes episodes of paralysis, muscle weakness, arrhythmia and developmental abnormalities.
Ms Stiller has recently also been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia – a chronic pain disorder which has been dubbed the "suicide disease" for the intensity of the pain sensations which shoot through facial nerves.
Her three children also have special needs of their own – all having been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
While their diagnoses were a blow to receive, Ms Stiller said the silver lining had been receiving adequate financial support through the NDIS to get them the help they need.
"Certainly life has been made very challenging," Ms Stiller said with a laugh. "But honestly, I am so humbled to have reached this milestone. My studies and my children have always been my focus and they have helped me get through."
In fact, it was hearing her eldest son tell his teacher and classmates how proud he was that his mum was studying at university that carried Ms Stiller through those long nights when her health was so bad she did not know if she could get out of bed in the morning.
"My children deserve this degree as much as I do, they have seen me go through so much stress with it and sometimes I have had to take time from them to get an assignment done."
"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."
Ms Stiller said the support and flexibility she received from UC during her studies had been 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 now works at Nutrition Professionals Australia 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."