NKU student and cancer survivor

Alyssa Plageman was in the middle of her sophomore year at NKU when she received some life changing news: she was diagnosed with cancer.

“I remember it was right before we were taking our final exams, before the summer,” Plageman said. “A lot of my teachers were helpful and they said that I could just withdrawal, but not all of them were helpful. I had to take some of my exams.”

Ellen Wappner is a sorority sister and close friend of Plageman who witnessed first-hand her experience with cancer.

“When we [our sorority] found out about Alyssa’s cancer we really rallied around her and supported her emotionally,” Wappner said.

Plageman underwent treatment for six months before going into remission.  Her doctors suggested she take another semester off school until her blood counts went back to normal and she would be able to fight infections again.

Wappner explained that Plageman’s mother created a Facebook page to keep her friends and family updated on her treatment and ways they could get involved. Wappner’s sorority created t-shirts and hosted a 5k run in Plageman’s honor.

Brittany Gragg, a sorority sister of Plageman’s, went to many of her chemotherapy treatments with Alyssa.

“I have never met a stronger friend throughout my entire life. Alyssa held my hand while I helped cut her hair off, she was positive throughout it all,” Gragg said.

Gragg stated that Plageman’s situation really helped her realize what relationships you should invest in and what relationships you should not.

During Plageman’s treatment, she often was not allowed to do the same things her college friends were.  She missed out on birthdays, nights out, and sisterhood retreats with her sorority.

“Whenever I would go to the hospital for scans or if I were in the hospital to get surgery, my dad wouldn’t eat, if I couldn’t eat before my surgery,” Plageman said.

Rose Tempel works as the associate director of health services at NKU and also serves as the nurse practitioner at NKU.

According to Tempel, Health Services currently does not follow a specific protocol for students with life-threatening illnesses. Tempel encourages students to see their primary physician for counseling on how to maintain school and their disease.

“We want to be able to provide a comfortable environment where students can go,” Tempel said.

Tempel believes that some students hesitate to tell faculty and staff about health issues.

“Sometimes students don’t want to be labeled as a disability,” Tempel said.

Tempel encourages students to utilize health services if they feel something may be wrong. Students can be physically examined, receive blood work and be prescribed medicine by a nurse practitioner at NKU.

Tempel encourages students to utilize disability services at NKU if they need accommodations in the classroom.

Tempel also can write letters to staff and faculty upon a student’s request if they are having a medical issue that needs to be made aware in the classroom.

Plageman gave some advice for others facing life-threatening diseases.

“Stay strong, and appreciate life,” Plageman said. “You never know when you could wake up to news that could change your life forever.”