VC student used illness to fuel academic success

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During her sophomore year at Cuero High School, Jocelynn Seals was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma bone cancer after a golf ball-sized lump was removed from her abdomen. Over a year of chemotherapy and surgeries followed for Seals.

“When I was doing chemo, they didn’t have me doing any type of therapy,” Seals said. “I lost a lot of weight and muscle mass. It was frustrating.”

Now at age 20, a healthy Seals is entering her second year in Victoria College’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program, determined to provide cancer patients the rehabilitation they need.

 Seals recently was named a winner of the Victoria College Foundation’s “What’s Your Story?” $1,000 scholarship contest after submitting an essay describing her ordeal and motivation to earn the credentials for a career in the physical therapist assistant profession.

 “Education was my escape from problems and helped me feel normal, as though everything was perfectly okay,” wrote Seals, who underwent 13 rounds of chemotherapy and four surgeries. “I made myself view chemotherapy as an activity that was just added to my life because I was trying not to let cancer take over who I was.”

Seals noticed the lump while in eighth grade, but it wasn’t until the lump became visible through her volleyball uniform two years later when she decided to tell someone.

“It wasn’t bothering me. It was just there,” Seals said. “I told my mom there was a weird lump on my stomach and I wanted to get it checked out. My mom was shocked when she saw it. We went to our doctor in Cuero and the next day we came to Victoria for my first surgery. When the results came back, we went straight to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.”

Seals, who said she was a “decent” student before her illness, grew to love education while taking classes at home during her chemotherapy.

“My oncologist told me that most cancer patients my age pause their education to complete treatment,” Seals wrote. “However, the idea of missing an entire year of school just didn’t seem like an option to me.”

Seals chose to continue her sophomore year classes. She eventually raised her GPA high enough to graduate third in her class. Seals also took dual-credit classes through Victoria College.

“Because of the dual-credit classes I took, when I got here, I only had a few classes to finish before I got into the PTA Program,” Seals said.

The small classes and one-on-one communication with VC instructors made Seals’ transition to college much easier.

“The instructors at VC know you by name,” Seals said. “The PTA Program is not easy at all, but the instructors and my classmates have been very supportive.”

Seals said she felt she was starting a new life at Victoria College.

“I’m no longer ‘the girl with cancer,’ ” Seals said. “I’m just a girl trying to make a better future for myself and, possibly, my family.”