Abbie Whittemore, a senior at Drake University, saw her life change last April when diagnosed with plasmacytoma of the bone, a rare plasma cell cancer that mainly affects people ages 55 to 65.
Over the past six months Whittemore endured hours of daily radiation therapy treatments, doctors’ appointments, procedures, excruciating pain and newfound health anxiety.
“I was forced to put my academic and professional life on hold,” Whittemore said. “I was unable to finish my spring semester, hold a part-time job and fulfill my extracurricular responsibilities. Before my diagnosis, these were the things I prioritized above all else.”
Since April Whittemore, the vice president of student organizations on the Student Senate, has been forced to focus on herself and her personal health due to her diagnosis. She has had to practice self-care for the first time in her life, which didn’t come easy to her.
“When I received my initial diagnosis, I tried to continue to attend class and fulfill professional responsibilities. When this became too overwhelming, I reached out to my professors individually to share my situation,” Whittemore said.
Each of her professors were understanding, accommodating and patient with her during this time. Shortly after, Alina Grimm, the assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, reached out to her to schedule a meeting.
“She showed empathy, kindness and respect towards me. She really took over the logistical side of my spring semester and encouraged me to focus on my mental and physical health during this stressful time,” Whittemore said. “If it weren’t for her support, I probably would have attempted to push my way through the spring semester, having negative effects on my health.”
Whittemore is truly thankful for the Drake community surrounding her, whether that be professors being flexible with her during her six weeks of daily radiation therapy or her friends gathering at her bedside while she was hospitalized for a week this summer.
This community isn’t done helping Whittemore. A GoFundMe was created recently by a few of her friends. This GoFundMe has already raised over $2,000 for helping Whittemore with her medical expenses.
Senior Princess Hart is in awe of Whittemore’s friends, who have gone above and beyond for her during these hard times.
“I think it is really nice that her friends would create this GoFundMe for her. It truly shows the power of friendship and how much the people in our lives are there for a reason,” Hart said. “I’m sure that Abbie really appreciates it and her friends, especially since this is a difficult situation for her to be in.”
No matter what is going on, Whittemore is thankful for everyone around her. She doesn’t let her diagnosis define her, truly allowing it to help her grow more than she ever thought possible.
“Since this diagnosis, I have grown in ways I never thought were possible. I have grown as a person, friend, daughter, student, leader and future healthcare professional,” Whittemore said. “I have developed resilience and found strength I didn’t know I had. I have a new perspective on life.”
She hopes to take a gap year after graduation before applying to an anesthesiology assistant program. She hopes to implement her degree in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, her undergraduate research experience, clinical experiences as a medical scribe and student leadership experience to become a successful certified anesthesiology assistant.
“My personal health experiences taught me that I want a career where I can work hands-on in a procedure-oriented field, work collaboratively in a team environment, care for patients during vulnerable times and advocate for patient safety,” Whittemore said.