AN AMBASSADOR for Parkinson's research who stood defiant in the face of a 'heartbreaking' diagnosis has been bestowed with an honorary degree.

The Open University has officially awarded Sally Bromley the certificate, in recognition of her role supporting medical studies and helping other people with Parkinson's.

Mrs Bromley, 69, was diagnosed with the disease in 2008 and has since thrown herself behind clinical trials, fundraising and support projects.

The retired teacher said she had no idea she had been nominated for the degree and assumed the congratulations letter was junk when it arrived at her home in Summertown.

Grandmother-of-four Mrs Bromley said: “The envelope arrived and I was ready to tear it up.

"Tears poured down my face when I opened it."

Mrs Bromley, who is chairwoman of the Oxford branch of Parkinson's UK, was awarded the degree at a graduation ceremony in Poole on Saturday.

She said: "It was emotional and wonderful.

"I couldn’t have been treated better, they really thought of everything and nurtured me through it."

The educator, who formerly taught at Frideswide Middle School (now The Cherwell School), was diagnosed with Parkinson's aged 59 after noticing a tremor.

The degenerative disorder affects the nerves and can cause mobility issues and involuntary shaking.

She said: “It was heartbreaking.

"Gone is the life you know and you learn to accept a future of uncertainty and degradation.

"Only I didn’t believe that was my future.

“I could let apathy and depression take over, but I wasn’t going to allow that."

Mrs Bromley co-wrote the First Steps programme to help others through diagnosis, a workshop which helps people to come to terms with the condition.

Neighbour Lindsey Court nominated Mrs Bromley for the honour, and described her friend as an ‘inspired educator’.

In the nomination form, Ms Court wrote: "Sally has become an ambassador for cutting edge research into Parkinson’s.

"Having never lost her own sense of humour and optimism, Sally is an inspired speaker.

"She has provided a platform for others to share their stories, personal or scientific, so others might be educated about living with Parkinson’s.”