Stephanie Fleer
Blazer Stories

Taking Determination to A Whole New Level

When Stephanie Fleer made the decision to enroll at John Wood Community College, she was in a transitional period of her life. Having gone through a divorce, Stephanie had just moved back to Quincy after living in Indiana for a few years. She had known she wanted to go back to school and get into a field like physical therapy or nursing, but wasn’t entirely sure what direction to take.  Stephanie had gone so far as to begin working with JWCC’s Academic Advisor Andy Happekotte to determine her next steps and to help form a plan for how to accomplish her goals.

And then Stephanie got some terrible news.

While trying to decide exactly which path she wanted to go down, Stephanie was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal cancer. Stephanie had long been committed to staying physically fit and had initially dismissed some of the symptoms she had been having as residual from a hernia she had gotten fixed earlier in the year. But a fateful appointment with her doctor confirmed her worst fears.

“It was August 2, 2019. I will never forget that day,” remembers Stephanie.

The unexpected diagnosis took Stephanie off-guard, but she refused to let it slow her down. She became laser-focused on keep herself looking toward the future. Instead of letting the diagnosis derail her dreams, Stephanie buckled down and committed to her classes, to her family and to herself.  Stephanie’s cancer treatment took chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery that spanned months. During that time, she stayed focused on her education, not pausing her progress or sacrificing her grades.

In January of 2020, Stephanie officially became a JWCC student with plans to pursue her Registered Nurse certification. At that point, she had finished her chemotherapy, but was facing a major surgery to fix some of the damage done by the cancer and its treatment. She opted to take her first semester online, as that fit best into her schedule.

“Everyone at JWCC worked with me really well.  I did that summer online and I was still going through surgeries and stuff too that following summer, so I took most of my courses online,” remembers Stephanie.

Fast forward to the present, Stephanie has finished her two years of coursework at JWCC and has officially transferred to Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing to complete her RN certificate. After all her experiences, Stephanie has made the choice to become an oncology nurse. She figures who better to help cancer patients than someone who has experienced it firsthand?

“The nurses I had in my treatment were amazing. They are very loving and empathetic, but yet they still don’t 100 percent know necessarily what that chemo is doing to you and all the emotional things that’s going through your head. I mean, they’ve been taught and they see it, but they don’t know it,” said Stephanie. “I think that I can use my experiences to really relate to my patients and what they are going through. I had really great nurses and maybe that’s the reason why I am now on this path now.”