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Calgary woman doesn’t let terminal cancer stop her from graduating with nursing degree

Terminal cancer diagnosis doesn’t stop Calgary woman graduating with nursing degree
WATCH: A room at Calgary's Tom Baker Cancer Centre was transformed into a special graduation ceremony for a University of Lethbridge student. She he was one semester away from getting her Bachelor of Nursing, but her oncologist moved mountains to present her with the degree. Jill Croteau reports.

Graduations are typically held in campus auditoriums — a celebration for the entire class. But on Wednesday afternoon, faculty from the University of Lethbridge pulled off a convocation for one.

Alysha Ramus was the guest of honor for the ceremony at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

“I never thought I’d get my degree. I had given up,” Ramus said.

The 25-year-old had to stop pursuing her Bachelor of Nursing degree after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“I know I’m not going to be able to change the world as the nurse I wanted to be, but I get to change the world in a different way,” Ramus said.

Alysha has Stage 4 cardiac angiosarcoma. She was one semester away from completing her nursing degree. Her oncologist at Tom Baker, Dr. Omar Khan, helped facilitate the convocation ceremony.

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Alysha had enough credits to get the degree. She is also submitting one final written assignment detailing her cancer journey. It’s titled This is not a study; this is my life.

Alysha working on her final assignment.
Alysha working on her final assignment. Jill Croteau/Global Calgary

“I thought: ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ It’s like cancer was punishment. It was happening because I did something wrong,” Ramus said. “But you don’t do anything wrong to get cancer; you just get cancer.”

She’s living for every moment because “the after” is too hard to bear. She’s worried about her family, particularly her parents Michelle and Ken.

“For me it’s not hard to be the one who’s dying,” Ramus said.

“It’s hard to look at people you love and know you’re not going to be able to help them and you’re leaving them too soon. I’m 25 and they didn’t expect this. I should be taking care of them and now they just have to watch and wait.”

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Alysha with her parents Michelle and Ken.
Alysha with her parents Michelle and Ken. Jill Croteau/Global Calgary

“It’s surreal. You’re like: ‘This can’t be happening, no way, because she did everything right,” Ken Ramus said.

“I’m grieving that she won’t be with us some day. She’s lost so much and she will do good in the world,” Michelle Ramus said.

“It’s not the way I wanted it to happen but she’ll change a lot of lives.”

The U of L worked for months to make this event possible. The associate dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Shannon Spenceley, hosted the ceremony.

“I will tell you every once in a while something comes along that reminds you why you do what you do and how important what you do is,” Spenceley said. “I’m so honored and happy and just I think it’s really special.”

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Alysha in her graduation gown outside Tom Baker auditorium.
Alysha in her graduation gown outside Tom Baker auditorium. Jill Croteau/Global Calgary

Alysha feels just as privileged to have her family, friends and fellow classmates witness this momentous occasion.

“I am very lucky for the 25 years I have and I will take everyday I get after this,” Ramus said.

Loved ones have set up a fundraiser for continued costs for Alysha’s care.