BRAVE Sally Cunnane found more than just fitness after double kidney failure and a cancer scare inspired her to become an aerobics instructor.
She almost lost her life more than 10 years ago, but found unlikely love with the Oxford Don who guided her through her studies.
The 42-year-old married Tom Cunnane, 57, in March after a romance which formed after a decade of friendship and education as she rebuilt her life.
She said: “After this bout of illness I wanted to get back to fitness and earn a bit of extra money.
“I was already a member of the Oxford Hotel gym and my parents funded the course for me.
“I’ve been teaching for 10 years now and I’ve had a fantastic time and got to know a lot of people locally.”
Mrs Cunnane first started feeling unwell at the age of 25 having returned from several years living abroad after she graduated from Oxford Brookes.
She was experiencing vomiting, high temperatures and severe weight loss, eventually dropping to less than six stone.
Mrs Cunnane made repeated visits to her GP, who suspected anorexia, but after she collapsed at home on October 26, 1996, doctors found that both kidneys had failed and she underwent major surgery.
She had stents installed and had “stone-smashing” treatment to get rid of kidney stones, but that wasn’t the end of her suffering as she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma when she was 30-years-old. She said: “It was a horrible experience, and the main thing I want to point out is that young people should be aware it can happen.”
After her successful cancer treatment, Mrs Cunnane was invited to Hertford College by friends where she met her husband-to-be, who coached her through the science side of a qualification in “exercise to music”.
With his help, she passed the written test with 97 per cent, a result he is particularly proud of.
Mr Cunnane said: “No student I know ever got 97 per cent in any exam, and certainly not my highly intelligent undergraduates.”
During their time together, a friendship developed and eventually love blossomed.
Mrs Cunnane said: “We were just friends at that stage, and he offered his assistance, and I couldn’t refuse.
“I had always admired Tom, and I started to notice that when he wasn’t there I missed him. At the time he was still in a broken marriage, and I thought he was unavailable because I didn’t realise about his marriage.”
Mrs Cunnane now teaches zumba and other music-based exercises at city council-owned leisure centres across Oxford and runs some private sessions.