Sam Cleasby sobadass Sheffield stony blogger

I have big news!

As you all know, I have had a tough time with my health for the past seven years. There’s been 9 surgeries, so many months in hospital, even more months of recovery at home. I dread to think how many strong painkillers I have taken over the past few years! My health has been so difficult. The main thing that has got me through this time is creativity.

Whether that is in the form of this blog, writing for other people or making art, I have learnt how important art is to humans.

Sam Cleasby opening a charity shop in Sheffield

I have had really difficult times in my physical health and as a consequence a bad time with my mental health. PTSD from the surgeries has caused anxiety, panic attacks and depression. What helped me through has been a combination of medication, talking therapies and art.

It is hard to be positive sometimes with a chronic illness. It is hard to plan for the future when your future feels so uncertain, when you don’t know if you will be having more surgery or just be too ill to get out of bed. When you are in pain every single day, it is hard to think about changing your life past just stopping the pain. I have had at least one major operation every year for the past seven years. So I struggle to think too much about the future.

But this isn’t making me happy. And so I started to think about what I want from life. What sort of job do I want to do in the future? I know the most important thing to me is to do a job that helps people and makes a difference.

I have done lots of different jobs in my life, mainly within the arts and helping people. And so I started to think about how I could put these things together. I truly believe that art heals the soul. It is a phenomenal tool to learn about yourself, to get through tough times, as a therapy to figure out your life. And I started to look into Art Therapy.

I looked at how to become an Art Therapist and saw that it was a Masters Degree after a Bachelor’s Degree. Almost immediately I threw this idea out of the window and started to look at other things I would like to do. I didn’t feel good enough to go to University. I never believed that someone like me could go to University.

When I sat my GCSE’s and from the age of 14 to 18, I was homeless. Not in the sense that I was sleeping on the streets, but I had no firm home. I stayed with my sisters, my aunt, on friends sofas, in random flats where a friend of a friend had space. I lived in so many places, I got a tiny, terrifying council flat just after my 16th birthday, I lived in a student flat and just all over! It was a really hard time, I felt so unsettled, so lost. I managed to get some good grades at GCSE and started my A-levels. But when you are trying to study in a flat where there are drug users, when you have no money, when you are worrying about where you will sleep, it is hard to give a shit about lessons.

I ended up leaving college, and then tried again the following year. But life was so chaotic. I had never felt more alone, more useless, more unloved. And honestly, I lost all belief in myself and I quit again. And so the thought of going to University always felt a million miles away from my life.

But my life is very different now. I have a home, a husband, a family. Though I struggle with my health, I have a great life. I have so many amazing friends and the most brilliant support system. So I thought, wellllll why not give it a try?

I decided to apply for a Fine Art degree, wholeheartedly believing I would be turned down, but at least I would have tried, right?

After months of creating a portfolio, of writing personal statements, interviews, open days and a lot of self doubt, I got an email today. I have been accepted onto the BA Honours in Fine Art starting in September!!!!

ME!!! Sam Cleasby. I am going to be a student!!! The plan is that in 3 years, I will have an Art degree and in 5 years I will have a masters in Art Therapy. I can’t believe it. I am terrified if I am honest!!! I am 39 and about to start University.

I don’t know what the future holds with my health. I’m not sure if this is the wisest of moves, but I am ready to try. After my surgery in February and the complications afterwards, I could have died. I could not be here right now, but I am. And so I owe it to myself to make the most of every single second.

I had a dream of making something of myself. Of studying and learning, of getting a degree and a masters and then having a dream job of being able to help others through creativity. I could have laughed it off, or thought I was too old and it was silly, I could have not bothered trying but I did and here I am.

I am at the start of a whole new part of my life, and you know what? I can’t wait!!!

Peace and love,

Sam xx

26 replies
  1. Jem
    Jem says:

    Congratulations!!! What an excellent opportunity and I suspect you’ll love it! I never graduated from my first degree and managed to get onto my MSc at the grand age of 36, on course to graduate next year at 38. It’s never too late, have an amazing time!!

  2. Naomi
    Naomi says:

    Now is the right time. It’s never too late to learn what you’re passionate about. I started a bike mechanics course last year, always wanted to do it but at 16, was told no. 44 now… and loving it. My chronic illness makes it tough sometimes but I work around it. You will absolutely rock this Sam, like you do with every challenge. Dissbled doesn’t mean you can’t, you just find alternative way to do it. Remember not to be too hard on yourself, don’t compare yourself to the other students… use that pain and create wonderful, powerful art. Proud of you 🙂 x

  3. Pauline
    Pauline says:

    Hi Sam, congratulations! I went to university at age 48, terrified and stunned that I’d been accepted. I loved it! I had a totally different perspective to my younger colleagues and although it was challenging I graduated a different person. I went onto a Masters and a career in human rights until my health deteriorated to such a degree that I’ve retired at 59. I dont regret a minute of it ????

  4. Terrri
    Terrri says:

    Congratulations Sam, with the attitude that you have, how can anything stop you!!! You mentioned
    your age; I once ‘worried’ to someone that if I did so and so, I would be (age.) They pointed out to me that
    I was going to be that age anyway!! I wish you continued healing and an abundance of positivity!!
    Take care, Terri

    • sam
      sam says:

      Definitely!! I will be 45 at the end of this, but my husband is 48 and he has changed careers late in life and inspires me all the time to not care about age and to just go with your heart!

  5. Keith Thomas
    Keith Thomas says:

    Hi Sam,
    Great news and a huge congratulations. You will smash it just like everything you have done before. Xx ❤

  6. Dev Sood
    Dev Sood says:

    Thats great, never to young to learn, nice you living your dream, I have had 3 bowel operations in last 4 years and am at a crossroads in my life both medically and professionally. Like yourself I am lucky to have great family and decent friends around me.

  7. Lesley-Ann smith
    Lesley-Ann smith says:

    Huge congratulations – I had an ephiphanic moment when I hit 40 got made redundant from a job I hated – wanted to be a Social Worker so went and did an Access Course, went to Uni to study Psychology as I was advised at College that I was ‘too’ academically talented (!!??!!) to do a vocational degree, 3 years later graduated with a first class honours degree and then started a funded PhD two months after graduation. I am now a Doctor and have been lecturing and researching for over 12 years – you are never too old!! All the very best for the future and I am sure you will enjoy and savour every moment xx

  8. Angela Turner
    Angela Turner says:

    That’s amazing, wonderful news Sam! I haven’t had anything like the surgeries you have, but I do remember not being able to think beyond the pain and wondering if this was my life now? But when I asked my gastroenterologist if he thought applying for a job was complete madness whilst I was suffering so much with UC, he told me to go for it as it would be good for me to focus on something other than my pain. It was the best move I’d made at that time. You are never too old to do anything you choose to, I was watching a woman in her 80s surfing off Porthcawl in Cornwall on TV last night! Seriously, I’m 54 and I’m just at the end of a diploma in therapeutic counselling, it’s taken me 14 years to get here with my UC and another chronic condition getting in the way, but you know I’ve learned so much about myself along the way. It’s been a worthwhile journey just for that. The university obviously believe you’ve got a lot to offer; start believing it yourself. Enjoy your journey Sam, I’m so happy for you that you’ve been accepted on the course. ? x x

  9. Bruce A DeHaven
    Bruce A DeHaven says:

    I am so very happy for you! All too often life will cause us to stand in the way of our own dreams, but you, my friend, seem to have always found a way around everything that life has thrown at you. You have never let anything hold you back and have accomplished more than most people ever will. And now…..on to Uni !!!!!

    You inspire more people than you will ever know. You make us realize that, no matter what life throws at you, great things can be accomplished…if you never say ‘I can’t’

  10. Kerami Roberts
    Kerami Roberts says:

    Wonderful news Sam, have emailed you.

    There’s some swriously lucky people put there who one day will feel the benefit of your talent and achievements. Going to be a challenging, awesome, exciting 5 years in the mean time.

    Oooooo I’m so chuffed with ypur news Sam, so I inspired by you grabbing life by the balls ?

  11. Mary
    Mary says:

    I have followed you for many years now. You have always come through the difficult surgeries, even if it took some time. I have multiple severe disabilities requiring frequent surgeries. I am also working on my Masters in the US. I guess what I am trying to say is no matter how difficult your health becomes during school, you will pull through successfully. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.


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