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Hope springs from painful past

PUBLISHED: 11:27 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:05 05 July 2010

THE death of his mother after a painful battle with cancer was inevitably hard for a 10-year-old boy to cope with.

And his deep sense of loss was compounded by powerful feelings of resentment when his father remarried just a year later.

THE death of his mother after a painful battle with cancer was inevitably hard for a 10-year-old boy to cope with.

And his deep sense of loss was compounded by powerful feelings of resentment when his father remarried just a year later.

But although his unhappiness led to his running away from home at the tender age of 13, Ifeanyi Onwuka recognises that early period of turmoil as the pivotal point in his life that enabled him to lay the foundations for future success.

Now a successful Norfolk pharmacist striving to develop his career while bringing up his 18-month-old daughter Seonna, he passionately wants to share his journey of self-discovery with today's teenagers and has written a book of his distilled experiences entitled An Introduction to Positive Life Lessons.

The first in what he sees as a series of motivational works covers wide-ranging topics from the power of positive thought and conquering fear of the unknown to the importance of learning who you really are and the need to look after your health.

Mr Onwuka, 35, who lives in Lowestoft with his wife Laura and works at a pharmacy in Springfield Road, Gorleston, was born in Edinburgh but his painful early experiences unfolded in Nigeria after his father Dennis took an engineering job there with British Gas.

When his mother Nkiru died at the age of 33, he was left with the responsibility of being the eldest of five children.

He recalls running away to his grandmother's to escape what he felt would be “inevitable psychological breakdown” if he had stayed with his father and step-mother.

But while he recognises a modern-day malaise of people lacking direction or focus, Mr Onwuka said the positive thing to emerge from the loss of his mother was that he immediately knew he wanted to be a pharmacist to help other sick people.

He said: “Where I was in Nigeria there was no encouragement to study science but I still got my physics, chemistry and biology O-levels by studying from books on my own. In the process I went from a student near the bottom of the class to the top.”

For the next step of his educational journey, Mr Onwuka felt he needed to return to England - but he faced a four-year battle with his father to persuade him to give him his passport.

At the age of 22 he finally arrived in London to stay with his aunt while he studied for his A-levels in evening classes, doing “all kinds of dirty jobs” to pay his way.

He recalled that going on to Portsmouth University for his pharmacy degree was an equally tough struggle.

“I only had £200 in my pocket when I arrived, and not being eligible for a grant in my first year I was commuting back to London every weekend to work shifts at Pret a Manger so I could just pay my course fees,” he said.

Mr Onwuka said it was possible for people to transform their lives at any age, but it became harder to reverse bad habits and ways of thinking as you got older.

He is hoping to use his experiences, and the lessons outlined in the book, to give a series of talks at local schools.

An Introduction to Positive Life Lessons, published by AuthorHouse, can be ordered at Amazon and through bookshops including WH Smith.


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