By Stefanie Dell’Aringa
Carol Weikle’s journey to become an RN in 2013 is an “against-all-odds” story. She earned her BSN at Grand Canyon University’s School of Nursing Phoenix, while fighting pancreatic cancer.
Before deciding to enroll in nursing school, the 54-year-old Phoenix resident was a successful rehab specialist who for nearly 10 years helped her husband Keith through a couple of health crises. “They said he would die waiting for a liver transplant,” Weikle said.
Through her own research, she learned Florida had the shortest waiting list, so they temporarily relocated there and Keith received a new liver. Now healthy, he is her motivation for wanting to help others in the same situation.
“I have dual masters in the field of rehab, and I was very good at it, but I had such a passion when my husband got sick,” said Weikle, who plans to pursue a career as a transplant nurse/coordinator.
“Who better to help families understand the wait time and everything else than someone who watched a loved one go through it?” she said.
After Keith’s recovery in 2010 and his subsequent battle with colon cancer two years later, Weikle enrolled at GCU to earn her BSN. She had saved enough money to pay for nursing school and cover time off her job. She was looking forward to the start of classes in six weeks when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June of 2013.
We got hit so hard in a three-year period,” Weikle said. “We joke around that we’re allowed a headache or cold now, but that is all.”
Because of surgical complications, Weikle spent the summer recovering from the pancreative surgery. “I had doctors who said I wasn’t supposed to live,” she said. “But dying wasn’t an option.”
Chemo and classes
That fall, she began chemo and classes. “My husband would drive me to school because I was too weak to drive sometimes,” Weikle said. “The instructors kept suggesting that I need to leave and focus on my health, but I needed something else to think about.”
Although her grades began to suffer from the toll chemo took on her ability to retain information, she passed all but one of her classes.
In March, Weikle got a clean bill of health from all three of her doctors. Although she’ll officially graduate in August after retaking peds/ob, she was included in the April graduation ceremony, one of many ways GCU has supported her.
“Carol possesses a passion and determination fueled by her desire to be a servant leader in the nursing profession,” Kristen Bright, MSN-Ed, RN, CNE, director, BSN program, GCU main campus, said. “Her aspiration to help and care for others has overshadowed the effects of the cancer treatment and provided her with the motivation to fulfill her dream.”
This summer, Weikle is completing a med/surg rotation at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Phoenix, followed by job hunting. “I don’t know how difficult it will be to find jobs, but I just feel like I can make a difference in someone else’s life,” Weikle said. “If I make a difference in one life, it will be worth it.”
[accordion title=”Nursing student receives support from family and GCU” load=”hide”]Weikle details the help and encouragement she received battling pancreatic cancer while attending nursing school at Grand Canyon University, Phoenix.
● The GCU Disability Resource Center helped Weikle deal with her “chemo-induced disability” by giving her extra time to finish a report. The center offers tutors, interpreters and translators. She said the resource center helped her get through school.
● Her fellow students helped with note taking and prayed for her. One fellow nursing student purchased purple wristbands and passed them out to everyone in their class. Purple shows support for pancreatic cancer awareness.
● Some of the GCU nursing instructors empathized with her because they had dealt with cancer themselves or had family members who had.
● Her doctors allowed her to pursue nursing school, telling her, “as long as you can do it, go ahead.”
● Weikle’s husband, Keith, her biggest fan, helped her with flashcard drills.
● Weikle’s parents are strong people who taught her to go after her dreams and passions.
● Kristen Bright, MSN, RN, director, BSN program/GCU main campus, offered support and took time to talk with her when neeeded. Weikle said she couldn’t have finished school without her inspiration.
— Stefanie Dell’Aringa[/accordion]