With the scars on her chest to prove it, Leslie Donovan knows now more than ever that she can conquer anything.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room Saturday when Donovan crossed the stage, signifying that she had finally earned her associate’s degree in nursing from Blinn College. A difficult two-year commitment for most students proved to be an even more trying journey for the 46-year-old mother of two.
In the midst of a divorce four years ago, Donovan found herself unemployed and renting out an extra bedroom just to pay for groceries.
A stay-at-home mom of 15 years, Donovan’s stack of part-time job applications each were met with a rejection notice, though she was equipped with a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and eight years of military experience.
“It didn’t matter that I had Army and Air Force experience,” Donovan said. “What stood out was that I had been out of the workforce for 15 years. And here I was with two kids, thinking I’d have to sell my house.”
That’s when Donovan’s new roommate approached her with a newspaper advertisement for Blinn College’s Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Program.
“That day I got online and Googled ‘Blinn Nursing,’” Donovan said. “I knew the nursing program had a fabulous reputation and if I was going to commit to going to nursing school, I was going to go to Blinn. I knew it would be difficult to get in, but I love a challenge.”
Donovan submitted her application and was accepted to the College’s ADN program in Fall 2011.
“I was a much better student this time around than when Mom and Dad were paying for it,” Donovan said. “I knew that this was my life, my future, my kids, my home.”
As things began to look up, Donovan made a devastating discovery. Not a month into nursing school, she found a lump in her breast. The first doctor Donovan saw told her the lump was nothing to be concerned about, but a visit six months later to the veteran’s hospital in Temple brought other news.
“I knew I would have to take time off school,” Donovan said. “Having to slow down my education was more devastating than the fact that I had cancer.”
Donovan spent most of 2012 driving to and from Temple for treatments, caring for her children and keeping up with ADN Program requirements. Donovan struggled to balance working part-time with the toll the cancer and treatments were taking on her body.
“It got really, really bad,” Donovan said. “I was facing utter financial devastation. I was looking at losing my home. But God provided. When people look at me and say, ‘Wow, you got through that,’ I say ‘No, God has gotten me through.’ Without him I wouldn’t be here.”
On June 9, Donovan will begin a three-month paid internship and subsequent full-time job as an oncology nurse with St. Joseph’s hospital in Bryan.
“I am proud to have gotten through this. I can empathize and understand my patients who want to give up,” Donovan said, rubbing two fingers over the scar on her chest from the chemotherapy port. “But it’s not about me. It’s about them.”
Donovan said she would not have made it through the program or her fight with cancer without the encouragement of Blinn faculty, especially Professor Cynthia Comley.
“So many people went to bat for me in the nursing program,” she said. “They worked together to make sure I finished. Look where I came from—a single, displaced homemaker who went through 50 job interviews from 2008 to 2010. I went from not knowing what to do to having a fabulous career as an RN. Thank you, Blinn.” Story and photos courtesy of Blinn College.