AN impromptu and spontaneous standing ovation spread across Huddersfield Town Hall as an honorary degree was conferred on cancer battler Jane Tomlinson.
Huddersfield University vice-chancellor, Professor John Tarrant, and many of the parents and students who gathered for the graduation ceremony were visibly moved when the diminutive cancer victim received her honorary degree.
"This is the first spontaneous standing ovation I've seen in eight years as vice-chancellor of the University of Huddersfield," said Prof Tarrant.
"It is a privilege for us to have you here and you are an inspiration to all of us," he told Mrs Tomlinson as he conferred on her the honorary award of DCL (Doctor of Civil Laws).
It was presented on the first of four days of award ceremonies for University of Huddersfield students.
Jane, who is currently in the middle of a course of chemotherapy, said after the ceremony: "It was so nice to have been part of everybody's day. Students worked so hard to get their qualifications and it is lovely to be part of that.
"I am halfway through the chemotherapy and am just coping at the moment. Hopefully the treatment will be finished at the end of January."
Husband Mike, who was standing at her side and who has taken charge of a lot of the cancer fundraising, said: "I feel very proud of her and this is a nice gesture from Huddersfield University."
Before the awards, Penny Renwick, head of podiatry, spoke about Jane's many achievements.
She said: "Jane Tomlinson is a remarkable woman and is surely an inspiration to many people in Britain and across the world.
"At one level Jane is a person like many here today, a busy professional and mother who juggles her work as a paediatric radiographer with Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust with her family life.
"This makes Jane special to her family and to her patients and colleagues but does not necessarily set her out as a truly remarkable individual.
"Thirteen years ago Jane was told that she had breast cancer. During her treatment at that time she had a bone scan and became so interested in radiography that she decided not to take up a university place to study maths but to study at the Leeds General Infirmary to become a radiographer.
"This she did as a mature student whilst in the midst of cancer treatment and also with a young family.
"Three years ago Jane became unwell again and after several months of illness, in April 2000 Jane and her husband Mike were told that the cancer had spread and it was incurable."
She joined a gym with a cool sauna and steam room to help take away some of the stresses of chemotherapy but soon developed an interest in running.
She took part in the 5km Race for Life for Cancer research UK raising £5,000. This has been followed by the London marathon in April 2002.
In August 2002 she completed the London triathlon and later that year the Great North Run.
"When I met Jane recently and we were talking about her achievements she did concede that this year she was a bit crazy in that she completed a Ride of Hope, a 1,060-mile bike ride from John O'Groats to Lands End in April with her brother Luke.
"Jane told me that when she was planning the ride, because of her chemotherapy, her balance was badly affected so she could not even ride a bike to the end of the street. Jane managed this phenomenal achievement while travelling back to Leeds regularly for chemotherapy."
During 2003 Jane has also successfully completed another London marathon, a further London Triathlon and she undertook a half Ironman triathlon making sporting history at this event being the first terminally ill competitor.
She has raised a vast amount of money for her four chosen charities - Sport Aided Research for Kids (SPARKS), Cancer Research UK, Hannah House Care Home and The Paediatric Acute Services at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust.
Over the two years this now amounts to more than £400,000.
She has received many awards but the ones that have meant the most to her were an award for unsung heroes where Jane was voted woman of the year and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
And in June this year she was awarded an MBE and recently travelled to Buckingham Palace.
She is already looking forward to next year and has booked her family holiday and is in the early stages of planning for a number of events during 2004.
Mrs Renwick said: "I can think of no one who better represents the human spirit in achieving great heights in the face of great adversity and who has enabled her own personal journey to bring inspiration and hope for others."