Va. woman with leukemia receives support from community college to further her education

Va. woman with leukemia receives support from community college to further her education
Virginia woman Brianna Haynes is receiving help from Piedmont Virginia Community College to pursue her dreams of becoming a radiation oncologist. (Source: WHSV)

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) — At 15 years old, Brianna Haynes went to the hospital to have her gallbladder removed, which ultimately led her to find out that she had chronic myeloid leukemia.

“At first, I was in denial. I was healthy my whole life. Out of nowhere, I get leukemia,” Haynes said. “It made me sad, but then I was like, I got this for a reason. God did this for a reason, so I made the best out of it.”

Despite the long hours at the hospital and the struggles that come along with the disease, Haynes graduated early from Waynesboro High School and continued working with a positive mindset through it all. She even went on to get her CNA license because she knew she wanted to help others.

“While being in the hospital, my nurses were a huge factor on me. I would sit there and cry just because of how much of a difference they made in my life,” Haynes said. “I want to be able to pass that on to other people, that joy.”

Now at 20 years old, Haynes has a dream of becoming a radiation oncologist.

“I’ve been in their shoes. I know what it feels like to be alone, spending nights alone in a hospital at a young age. It was very hard for me. So, I just want to be able to be there for people and show them that somebody is on their side,” Haynes said.

But Haynes, being one of five children with no financial aid, is asking for help in achieving that dream. She’s hoping to raise money to continue her education at Piedmont Virginia Community College in the spring semester.

“I want to make a better life for me and my family,” Haynes said. “My parents didn’t go to college or anything. No one in my family has really went, so I want to be the first one to make a big difference.”

Now, after hearing Haynes’ story, Piedmont Virginia Community College has reached out and offered her assistance in enrolling for the spring semester.

“We’re just incredibly proud to know about the determination and resilience that Brianna has, and we want to congratulate her on what she’s been able to accomplish so far, but then also to say just how much we look forward to seeing what she’s going to be able to accomplish with her PVCC education,” Harry Stillerman, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Development at PVCC, said.

Stillerman said PVCC was able to get in contact with Haynes this week and work out a way for her to start classes again in the spring.

“They were able to provide a combination of financial aid and scholarships to support her. She’s now registered for a full course load in the spring, and I think the financial aid should be able to cover the needs that she has for the upcoming semester,” Stillerman said.

PVCC wants the community to know there are scholarships and financial assistance available, along with other support programs to ensure students are able to succeed at the college.

“Now, more than ever, we recognize that a lot of folks are struggling to cover the cost of their education, so we think it’s really important to make sure that everyone can come to PVCC and pursue what their dreams are and what their career and educational goals are,” Stillerman said.

Haynes said she’s very grateful to everyone who has supported her along her journey so far, including the MaDee Project, which reached out to her after she was diagnosed. The organization connected Haynes with Samuel’s Supper, a nonprofit that helps kids in medical crises, after hearing about her struggles financially in continuing her college education.

“They have made such a big difference in my life,” Haynes said.

If you’d like to help Haynes in her journey to help others, you can do so here.

Haynes is currently taking daily medication to suppress her white blood cell count and has check-ups at the hospital every three months. She said she doing everything she can to stay healthy and positive.

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