(Editor’s Note: As Commencement nears, WVU Today will occasionally feature some of the University’s most dedicated graduates. Here is the story of one of those outstanding students.)


Bettina Mason’s first two years at West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy did not involve the same kind of late-night study sessions and social gatherings as her classmates.

The Ypsilanti, Mich. native was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma at the end of her first-year of pharmacy school. She began the eight-month regimen of chemotherapy in June 2008.

For information on WVU's May Commencement, go to http://commencement.wvu.edu/

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“It was very strenuous and I was really tired and fatigued from the medication all the time,” she said.

But, rather than take a year off, Mason opted to stay in school during her treatment.

“I figured I would give it a shot and if it wasn’t working, then I would get out,” she said.

Mason received her treatments at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center in Morgantown. Her mother moved in with her and her father made weekend trips from Michigan when he was able. When her parents weren’t around, her classmates drove her to appointments and stayed by her side.

Mason scheduled her chemo sessions for Fridays so she had the weekend to recover, which mostly involved sleeping and trying to get her energy back.

Her professors worked with her to reschedule quizzes and assignments for her as she needed them, and her classmates recorded any class lectures that she missed.

“That fall semester was one of the most difficult in pharmacy school,” she said. “I think sometimes I was a lifeless body in classes and could do nothing but lay my head on the wall and rest. I would try to stay after class and study with classmates but often I would be too nauseous and just go home.”

“If I felt good I tried to do as much as possible.”

In the end, her perseverance paid off. Mason got all A’s and one B her first semester on chemo, and straight A’s the second. In January of 2009, she received the all-clear from her doctors.

“I think it impacted every person around me,” she said. “My life will never be the same. Of course I never want to go through it again, but it does teach you your strengths and how much you can endure.”

Mason, who would ultimately like to work in a long-term or managed care facility, believes her experience with cancer will make her better at helping patients in her career.

“I can understand where patients are coming from,” she said. “I know that level of desire and how you have to break it down for them in their language and their expectations.”

During her treatment, she realized that she wasn’t alone. She met a lot of students along the way that were also fighting for their lives. The experience taught her to fight.

“Cancer gives you the option to fight or give up,” she said. “I chose to fight for my future, dreams, goals and aspirations. My experience has taught me the fight I have within and how much I desire to be a pharmacist. It has solidified my desire to go into healthcare, and has taught me that I want to inspire others to love life and to live it to the fullest.”

Mason strives to volunteer as much as possible. She is active the American Cancer Society and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She relishes the opportunity to share her story with others and encourage those struggling with cancer.

By Colleen DeHart
WVU University Relations/News



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