A Cancer Survivor’s Journey to Graduate and Heal

Growing up in the panhandle of Florida, Macey Hicks didn’t seriously consider Ole Miss until she began visiting a friend her senior year. Then she and her mother came for an official tour and “fell in love with the campus,” she said.

In the fall of 2017, she enrolled as a freshman student, completed recruitment, joined Kappa Delta sorority, and decided the business school was the best fit for her academically. Later, she declared her major in marketing and communication strategy with a minor in entrepreneurship.

But, by the beginning of her sophomore year, Macey began to run a high fever, accompanied by extreme fatigue and night sweats. All of her symptoms seemed like a bad case of Mono. This went on for almost five months and no doctor seemed to cure her until she came home after her finals.

This is when she went to see Dr. Tarek Eldawy, who diagnosed her with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s germ-fighting immune process.

This is when Macey’s journey began. “Completing classes, while not knowing if I was going to survive was quite the challenge,” she said. “I had some help from classmates and friends back home to help me meet due dates when I was in the hospital.”

There were others to help her obtain her degree while enduring the treatments. Dr. Cesar Rego, who taught Macey MKTG 372 – Supply Chain Management, was particularly supportive by allowing her to some flexibility with her assignments and by checking on her frequently.

“Macey had to travel regularly to Houston for her checkups or treatments, which made her miss many classes,” said Rego. “I’d meet with her in my office to teach her the material she had missed in those days. Her enthusiasm was contagious and her learning speed out of the ordinary.”

In December 2019, cancer was detected again, and Macey traveled to Houston, Texas, to the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she underwent a stem cell transplant. She and her mother lived in Houston during treatments at MDA for over six months, because of Covid and because her immune system was too impaired for her to leave.

While at MDA, she participated in a program called AYA (Adolescent and Young Adult Program) geared to supporting younger patients. Through this program, she received a scholarship help pay her college tuition.

Macey’s focus these last two years has been her school work to complete her degree from Ole Miss and graduate in May. She hopes to work in the pharmaceutical industry to promote and sell therapies for blood cancers. Since her surgery and treatment at MDA, she has had only clear scans since August 2020.

“I know there is a long road ahead to get me where I want to be,” she said. “I’ll work my way up for the chance to help patients find the right treatment and inspire confidence in their treatment plan and medical team.”

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