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During her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Stephanie Pink began having a terrible pain in her hip. The pain kept her from running and made her limp while walking.

A diagnosis was made after several visits to the doctor’s office, but it came too late: The aggressive bone cancer had attacked her hip joint.

Pink, a 26-year-old nursing graduate from Monroe, took time away from school to undergo a lengthy treatment process, including nine months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation. She returned to the nursing program during her remission, but it wasn’t long before she fell ill with leukemia, a malignant disease of the bone marrow and blood.

“Doctors told me that chemotherapy was my only option because of how aggressive the cancer was,” Pink said. “It’s typical for chemo patients to get leukemia, but it was either that or dying, so I obviously chose chemo.”

Pink took additional time away from the nursing program to receive a stem-cell transplant for her leukemia.

During this recovery, Pink received $500 from the College of Nursing’s (CON) Student Emergency Fund. Dean Rosemary Smith and CON faculty wanted to make sure that the challenges Pink was facing would not prevent her from accomplishing her goal of attaining a degree.

Every year CON provides nursing students facing unforeseen challenges with financial support through the Emergency Fund, which originally was founded by a generous anonymous donor to help students complete the nursing program.

Since Pink was unable to walk long distances and needed to get exercise during her recovery, she put the money towards purchasing a stationary bike.

“The treatment was tough because I used to be a runner, and I was too weak to even walk short distances,” Pink said. “I decided to use the money and buy a bike, which really kept me in shape and played a part in my recovery.”

Pink said CON faculty and the nurses that took care of her, including a UW Oshkosh alumna, who encouraged her to go forward and complete her B.S. in nursing.

“The level of courage and resilience shown by Stephanie throughout this ordeal and treatment of a second life-threatening cancer was nothing less than remarkable,” said Becki Cleveland, assistant director of CON’s undergraduate program and student academic affairs. “A cancer survivor when she entered our clinical program, Stephanie shared her passion to someday help others endure what she had experienced.”

Pink walked alongside her colleagues at the University’s mid-year commencement ceremony on Dec. 18. Her family and professors attended to celebrate her accomplishments.

“I cannot express the pride as I witnessed her walking across the stage at graduation,” Cleveland said. “She is truly a gift to us, to nursing and to all the patients she will touch in her professional career.”

Pink currently is serving as a registered nurse at Theda Clark Medical Center’s cardiac and orthopedic sectors in Neenah. In March 2011, Pink will be cancer-free for three years, and after five years without having any re-occurrences, doctors will deem her as being cured.

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