Discover Your Island

Islander Alumna Perseveres through Cancer Diagnosis to Obtain Two Bachelor’s Degrees

June 23, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Islander Alumna Lauren Graham always knew she wanted to go into the medical field. Her mother is a nurse, and her father works in a hospital, so it was natural that she would find herself in medicine, though her path is distinct, as she has journeyed through a devastating diagnosis to receive two different degrees from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Graham, who graduated from CCISD’s Mary Carroll High School, became an Islander in fall 2004, enrolling into classes to enter the nursing program. However, in spring 2007, Graham was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma and leukemia.

 “I knew that there was no way that I would be able to apply to the nursing program and deal with the stress of my studies while doing chemotherapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston,” Graham stated. “So I started to look for classes that I could take online. All of the communication classes appealed to me, and I felt like it would be something that I could excel in, despite my ongoing cancer treatments.”

Graham started small. In fall 2007, she took one online class, and continued to add classes until she was a full-time student once again. By the time the chemotherapy was complete, Graham only needed six classes to finish a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She walked the stage with that degree in spring 2011.

 “My first degree represented something that I was able to accomplish during a tough time in my life, and I’m proud of it, but I knew that I still wanted to become a nurse,” said Graham. “In the summer of 2013, I was accepted into the nursing program at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.”

Graham remained in remission from her first cancer diagnosis for eight years, but this past March, just three months before her second graduation, she received some shocking news – a cervical cancer diagnosis. That same month, during spring break, Graham underwent a hysterectomy. About a year prior to the cervical cancer diagnosis, she found out that during her previous chemotherapy treatments, she developed avascular necrosis, a condition where one loses blood supply to the bones. Because of this, Graham underwent a total hip replacement in May, only 11 days after she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Graham is currently recovering from hip replacement, and eventually plans to get a job as a labor and delivery nurse, just like her mom. She’s also thinking about writing a book about the first-year nursing experience. She has already written and published one book, called “Seriously Cancer? I Do Not Have Time For This,” that she wrote during her first cancer experience.

“I want people to realize that there is always a bright side to everything, no matter how bad the situation.” Graham said. “To my fellow alumni, always remember that we were put here for a purpose. We can make a huge difference with our actions.”

Graham has a gofundme account where she is accepting donations to help cover medical expenses.