Katie, CSCU President

As I walked 10.25 miles throughout the day Wednesday for CSC University, different faces came to mind as I reflected on the number of people I know at NAU who have walked a cancer journey either themselves or in support of a family member or friend.  The “white picket fence” around the institution of higher learning is unable to keep out cancers and other chronic illnesses and NAU faces these just like every other community of people.  People who are moving forward each day, living their lives, and suddenly they are faced with an unwelcome, unwanted journey.

NAU students at CSCAZ Trivia Night

Understanding the importance of community support after working at CSCAZ for more than two years now, I am eager to expand the touch and capacity of CSCU at NAU to provide that support and community to those on a cancer journey at NAU.  There is much work to do at a place where learning is embraced to educate young adults about ways they can prevent many cancers and lifestyle habits they can adapt while they are young to stay as healthy as possible throughout their lives.  And there are groups that can be formed right on campus to offer support to those already on this journey.  Please keep NAU young adults, faculty, and staff in your thoughts as we work to expand our presence across campus offering a helping hand and convenient shoulder.

Today, Thursday, August 10, 2023 I am walking in honor of cancer survivor Jessica Grant.  Please read Jessica’s story below, in Jessica’s words:

“In the summer of 2021, just like every summer before that, I went for my routine mammogram. Something to check off before heading out on a long-awaited trip to see family and friends. But it turned out to be anything but routine. A series of further scans and tests revealed that I had breast cancer. How can this be? I wondered. Up until that moment, I was a healthy person. But it felt as if I had been dropped off in a foreign country where I didn’t know the language. It was a confusing and frightening time. Fortunately, I encountered a series of people who would support and encourage me along the way. My nurse navigator, Kristi Riebe, was one of those compassionate guides.

Jessica Grant, breast cancer and lung cancer survivor

I began to notice many small acts of kindness and moments of favor (such as a long-delayed scan being moved ahead). Not wanting to overlook or forget these moments, I began to journal, nearly every day.  As I recorded these surprising occurrences, it came to me to call them “grace drops.” They were unexpected…undeserved; and like a gentle rain, they refreshed my spirit during a difficult time. During the ensuing months of treatment, I wrote of countless grace drops. I could go back and reread my journal, and be uplifted again each time. In addition, I had a group of women friends who has met weekly for prayer for many years. They circled around me, they prayed, they listened to my fears and anxieties, and they prayed some more. I cannot express how much their love and care nurtured and strengthened me. I also found a sisterhood in the Breast Cancer Group offered at the Cancer Support Community. Finally, the breast cancer journey wound down and I went back to a mostly-normal sort of life.

Then, in the summer of 2022, during another long-awaited trip, I became very ill. Over the next three months, as symptoms failed to resolve, I entered into another season of labs and tests and scans. Finally came the diagnosis: lung cancer. How can this be? I wondered. I wasn’t even a smoker! To treat it, last November, I had surgery to remove a lobe of one lung. It took many months to recover, and I have developed other complications with my breathing.

But the grace drops keep on coming, and my friends keep on praying. My life is different now, and I am learning to accept unwelcome limitations. I’ve been presented with many lessons; I may be a slow learner! But I know that I am part of a large community of those whose lives have been impacted by cancer. I am not alone. I have today. I have faith, which has changed: not faith that life will not be difficult, but faith that I will be provided what is needed to find meaning and purpose in life. It is not perfect, but it was never meant to be. Life is good!”