From Lost to Found: Emily’s Story

  • Communications
  • November 3, 2016

Emily Kmiecik is in her second year of Harper’s nursing program, but it hasn’t been an easy road. In fact, she wasn’t initially drawn to nursing, until a fateful day in May 2013.

As Emily explained, “When I was three years old, nurses were scary people who gave me shots. In high school, I saw nurses as scholars and deemed myself unworthy of ever holding such a title. However, on May 4, 2013, the word “nurse” changed for me the day I fainted at work. Nothing prepared me for that visit to the ER, when the doctor looked at me with concern after reading my blood tests and said, ‘we think you have Leukemia.’”

Emily KmiecikLife changed dramatically for Emily that day. At the time, she was 22 years old, working full-time and living on her own. “Once I became sick, I became dependent on my parents again. I moved back into their house,” noted Emily. Emily spent months in the hospital and dealt with invasive surgeries due to complications. Yet, she felt that being diagnosed with cancer at 22 years old was a blessing in disguise. “It forced me to become a strong individual, and it led me to nursing. I knew I needed to become a nurse to help others in my situation. This disease has been the catalyst to my hard work and made me a more confident student and overall individual. Before this disease I was a bit lost in life; I had dabbled in school but could not find the true passion that I knew was missing. However, this disease opened my eyes to my capabilities and my love for health, medicine, compassion and humanity. I can now say that I love school and although nursing school is definitely not easy, I am willing to go the extra length and put my best effort into achieving this academic dream of mine. I have never been more passionate for something in my entire life” said Emily.

Although Emily is not nearly as sick as she was, she still must visit her oncologist monthly, whether for chemotherapy or a spinal tap. Despite not always feeling up to it, she attends class every single day and works hard to stay positive. And her effort is paying off. She has been on the Dean’s list for two semesters and is getting A’s in challenging courses such as Physiology and Microbiology.

“Instead of allowing my Illness to hinder my life, I have decided to learn from it. My battle with cancer will give me a perspective that many nurses do not have. I believe that seeing illness from the view of the patient will allow me to be a more thoughtful and inspiring nurse to those patients that I encounter. I cannot wait to be on the other side of the bed and use my gift to help others.”

Battling cancer is not only draining, both physically and mentally, but also very expensive. “Along with my monthly procedures, I take chemotherapy medications, steroids, antibiotics and other medicine every day,” added Emily. The costs add up, and Emily does what she can to make ends meet – working 20 hours a week while going to school. “Because of my debt from continuing hospital bills, I cannot move out on my own and support myself. My parents had been planning on retiring before I got sick, but now they are working harder than ever in order to help pay for my school. They had also planned on selling our house, but since I am still there, they had to postpone that as well.”

Fortunately for Emily, the Harper Educational Foundation offers an array of scholarships that could help her out. In fact, Emily’s scholarship application received the highest ratings by the review committee, and she earned the Thompson-Holton Endowed Scholarship, Midge C. Smith Memorial Scholarship and Wilford Family Endowed Scholarship, which totaled more than $2,000 in scholarship funds. “The gift of these scholarships takes weight off my shoulders and also takes stress off my parents, who deserve it just as much as I do,” acknowledged a grateful Emily.