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Sara Schwartz - 2020 CU College Nursing Graduate

Student Persevered in Spite of Cancer Diagnosis

Working two jobs, going to school and staying up late, your typical college student -- she wasn't expecting to be diagnosed with cancer.

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Sara Schwartz had a bumpy start to her nursing degree. Notified 14 days prior to the start of orientation that she was accepted into CU Nursing, she drove to Colorado from California. “I was homeless for a week and planned to live in my car,” she said. Fortunately, she met a girl during orientation whose family allowed her to live in their basement. 

Then in the fall of 2018, she began to feel extremely lethargic and ill. She shrugged it off, “Thinking it was because I was stretching myself too thin -- working two jobs, going to school and staying up late. I was a typical college student.”

But one symptom was odd -- swollen lymph nodes. Noticing a “weird bump in my clavicle area” before leaving California, she told a doctor at the hospital where she was a CNA. He said to keep an eye on it. Turns out it was something all right. In January, Schwartz was diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin Lymphoma. “It didn’t even occur to me that it could be cancer. I was 24 and no one in my family had ever been diagnosed before,” said Schwartz.

At the time, the lymph nodes were the least of her worries. Yes, they were swollen and painful, but a rash all over her chest, back, and stomach was really what drove her to schedule an appointment with an ENT. “I was taking a lot of Zyrtec at the time, just to be able to function and was miserable.” While at her appointment, she informed the doctor of her swollen lymph nodes. 

“I have to credit the ENT. She was extremely persistent and on top of her game,” said Schwartz. She ordered a biopsy. A few days later, Schwartz began chemotherapy, which lasted through July.

“It did affect me. I lost my hair. And I didn’t want to be judged differently because of my diagnosis,” said Schwartz. Struggling with a decision to put a pause on school, Schwartz decided to continue. Despite exhaustion and the aggressive treatment regimen, she kept up with her studies and even managed to graduate cum laude. Now that’s pretty impressive!

Topics: Students