Student Faces Enormous Challenges But Keeps Working Toward Graduation


Jose Luis Macias Rojas, Staff Writer

Being a college student comes with plenty of challenges, but one Brookdale student has faced far more than her share and tells her story to remind others to keep fighting. Things do get better.
When Lucia (not her real name) was in her second semester at Brookdale in the spring of 2017, she discovered that she was pregnant. The nursing student who had graduated from Neptune High School a year earlier knew things wouldn’t be easy. What she did not know was that she would become a single mom and a leukemia patient on the same day.
When Lucia was delivering her baby, the doctors noticed something unusual and asked her to stay longer. When the doctor came back, he brought not only her newborn, but also a terrible diagnosis. She had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“A few days later, the treatment started, and I stayed in the hospital for two-and-a-half months,” she said, explaining she started chemotherapy immediately and had to leave the care of her infant to others.
“I wanted to quit the treatment, and I did not want to go because I did not want to leave my newborn alone,” she said. “In a moment, I felt trapped in my body, like if my mind was in one world and my body in another world. I remember my auntie saying that I needed to remember where I was coming from, that I am resilient, that I am a fighter, and strong!”
“My family was over one hour away from the hospital, and it was hard for them to come by all the time, but I knew that God was with me,” she said, noting that she was alone most days.
After Lucia’s intensive chemotherapy treatment, the doctors discharged her. She was free of cancer and ready to go back to college while she was in the maintenance phase of chemotherapy.
In the summer semester of 2018, Lucia came back to classes. However, she changed her major after her experience. “It was a very traumatic experience that I did not feel strong enough to relive my own experiences as a nurse,” she said.
She began her new major in business administration. However, during the semester, she began feeling strange and found it hard to concentrate in class.
“I felt a burning sensation in my head and headache. It was like if my head was a pot of boiling water with the cover about to explode away,” she said. She went to the oncologist, and after some medical analysis, they found out a problem in her brain. She needed to reduce stress and take some cognitive therapy.
Lucia ended up dropping classes again to take care of herself and her toddler. When she completed the cognitive therapy, she was ready to start all over again.
However, in the summer of 2019, the oncologist diagnosed her with Avascular Necrosis, which would require her to have a total hip replacement. Once again, she needed to quit her desire to study to attend to her health.
“In 2019, I was trying to cope with everything: the cognitive therapy, chemotherapy, avascular necrosis that required physical therapy, but later ended up with a total hip replacement surgery and taking care of my child.”
After all these medical interventions and therapies, Lucia was ready to come back to studying. She returned to college in Spring 2020, and she is doing well now. However, she is only taking one class during the fall semester because she was overstressing last summer with two classes.
“Brookdale’s administration has been very supportive during all this time, and the professors were very comprehensive. For example, my adviser Paulette Simpson, told me to come back when I was better,” she said.
In addition to all these medical issues, Lucia is an immigrant. Before any of these difficulties, she left her native country of Haiti, established a new identity, learned a new language along with a new culture.
However, none of these challenges are keeping the now 22-year-old Brookdale student back.
“I do not have a graduation date, but I want to become the first professional in my family,” Lucia said with great confidence.