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Senior overcomes personal challenge to achieve nursing degree

Stephanie Hedlund is graduating with her degree in nursing.Graduating senior Stephanie Hedlund began college in 2008. After bouncing around from a biology major to education, she finally decided nursing would be the best fit for her.

“I have a good friend who had cancer when she was younger, and she told me how much of a difference the nurses made as she fought her battle,” said Hedlund. “That’s the main reason I chose to go into nursing.”

As she worked on a degree to allow her to help others though, she was facing a life-threatening battle of her own.

“I was one semester shy of graduating when I became extremely sick with stomach issues. I couldn’t eat and doctors performed numerous tests on me to find out what was wrong,” she said. “After several emergency room visits, and being in extreme pain, I was diagnosed with anorexia.”

Her disorder forced her to leave school to focus on her recovery. After several visits to treatment centers, her battle continued.

“It got really bad about a year ago. I felt hopeless, and everybody says now that I shouldn’t be alive because of the condition I was in at my lowest,” said Hedlund.

It was at that time she hit a turning point that gave her a new lease on life.

“I credit the support of my family and friends and my faith with helping me finally realize that my life was worth fighting for,” she said.

After one last visit to a treatment center, she and her doctors finally decided she would be able to return back to school, so she petitioned to rejoin the nursing cohort for her final semester, which began in August 2014.

“I have been overwhelmed with the support I’ve received from faculty, staff and my peers,” she said. “They were always concerned and tried to help me the best they could, and they also allowed me to join back up with the program to be able to finish my degree.”

Associate professor of nursing Josie Doss served not only as Hedlund’s mentor, but also her friend.

“Stephanie holds a special place in my heart. We have been through a lot together. She and the rest of her original cohort had been so supportive of me when I was at a very low point in my life after losing my mother to lung cancer, and I was determined to make the time to do the same for her,” said Doss. “Stephanie is the poster child for perseverance. Not only did she demonstrate motivation, perseverance and the desire to succeed in relation to her recovery, she has displayed these same characteristics in the continued pursuit of her nursing degree.” 

As her college career is capped off, Hedlund already has a job lined up at Navicent Health, formerly the Medical Center of Central Georgia, in Macon.

“I hope that my story can help inspire others that no matter how hard the road is, you can overcome,” said Hedlund. “I still face many challenges, but I am not ashamed of my story. By speaking out, I hope others will hear it, so maybe it can help them face their battles.”

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