But then, there’s Rhonda McCroskey, a Bluefield College degree completion student in management from Narrows, Virginia. In the midst of her studies, she has encountered more than your typical challenges. While balancing school, work and family, she’s been asked to juggle more daunting tasks, but she’s persevered, she’s kept the faith, and she’s overcome. The result: life!
In the midst of studying business ethics, analyzing research methods, and examining contemporary issues in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in management and leadership, McCroskey was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the body’s lymph nodes and other organs of the immune system.
McCroskey began BC’s inSPIRE degree completion program in 2009 — February 2, in fact, her 40th birthday. She did so knowing she’d need to balance her studies with full time work as the assistant to the director of the School of Communication at Radford (VA) University, not to mention her responsibilities as a wife to husband, Jimmy, and a mother to then 13-year-old daughter, Camry.
And, she did well, earning a promotion at work, coaching her daughter’s volleyball team, and successfully completing her assignments and classes at BC. In fact, McCroskey was set to graduate from the college with her bachelor’s degree in management and leadership in the spring of 2010 — that is, until she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“My faith is what sustained me,” said McCroskey about having to set her degree aside to battle cancer instead. “It allowed me to look at things through spiritual eyes and know that no matter what, I will be okay. If God chooses to heal me through whatever means — divinely or through medicine — and I stay here with my family, I will be thankful and take full advantage of our time together. But, if He chooses to take me home, then as a Christian, I cannot be sad, because that’s what every Christian lives for, to one day make it to Heaven.”
Just months shy of graduation in January 2010, McCroskey put her dream of earning a bachelor’s degree on hold for chemotherapy that would last nearly a year, followed by 27 radiation treatments over an additional six weeks. That alone is heart wrenching, but consider the fact that this time is McCroskey’s fourth time being diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1997, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) for the first time in 2004, and NHL for the second time in 2007. Despite months of chemotherapy, total body irradiation, and a stem cell transplant, the cancer returned for a fourth time in 2010.
“There is only one word to describe how I have endured, how I have continually endured each time — God,” said McCroskey. “God’s grace and mercy have allowed me to stay focused on the task at hand no matter what it has been. He has given me the strength and the inner peace that passes all understanding to persevere and keep striving toward the goal of completing this program. His blessings continually flow in my life because of my willingness to submit to His will. So, I go through each day not focusing on the fact that I have cancer, but on God and His purpose for my life.”
McCroskey said the flexibility of the inSPIRE program has helped her manage and continue her studies. The addition of online courses, she added, worked well within her work, family and treatment schedules, which included labs twice a week, occasional transfusions, and trips of more than 60 miles from the hospital to work.
“Not only do I have a full-time job, but I also have a part-time job and a part-time business,” McCroskey said. “I am also very involved in my church and coached my daughter’s recreation league volleyball team. Knowing that I could complete assignments at my own pace made the challenge of getting everything accomplished as a student and a working adult much easier.”
Beyond the flexibility, McCroskey said she’s been grateful for the professors in the inSPIRE program, who have been more than instructors to her in recent months. Her relationships with them, she said, have extended far beyond the classroom.
“The instructors have encouraged me to continue and to finish my degree,” she said. “Many have been willing to pray for me and to add me to prayer lists. As a Christian, but especially as a student whom they had not known very long, that was very humbling and greatly appreciated.”
With just 18 academic hours or six classes left to complete her bachelor’s degree, McCroskey said she can again see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, whether she reaches that goal or not, she’s confident she will have achieved all that God intended and that even greater goals and dreams have been fulfilled than she ever imagined.
“Because of my health situation, completing my bachelor’s degree has become less about me and more about my testimony and witness to my daughter,” said McCroskey. “She has seen first-hand that no matter what obstacles life throws at us, if we are willing to trust in God and not give up, we can still achieve what it is that He has placed in our hearts to achieve. As a mother, this is one life lesson that I have endured for her that is priceless and one I know she will rely on in her future whether I’m there to help her through it or not.”