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Ashley Rhodes doesn’t miss a beat when asked why she decided to go into the medical field.
“I had a great relationship with my whole team—particularly my oncologist, Dr. Scott Howard; my radiologist, Dr. Matthew Krasin; Nurse Practitioner Lauren Duffy; and Nursing Care Attendant Regina Simmons,” Ashley says. “But my primary nurse, Beverly Dunlap, is absolutely the reason I went into nursing. She helped me throughout the entire journey.”
Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at age 16, Ashley endured three weeks of radiation therapy, 12 grueling weeks of chemotherapy and the severe weight loss that accompanied relentless nausea.
“My close friends and family walked on eggshells around me during that time,” she recalls, “but Beverly treated me like a perfectly normal teenager.”
During college, Ashley helped raise money for the hospital through her sorority, Tri Delta. She also returned to St. Jude to complete an externship in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a place she had never visited before.
“I was fortunate,” she recalls, “because I never even had to spend one night in the hospital during my treatment.”
Ashley says she gleaned all the wisdom she could from the ICU nurses, many of whom had worked at St. Jude for decades. “They had such a wealth of knowledge to share,” she says.
“I really liked the structure and the fast pace and the critical-thinking aspects of the ICU,” she adds. “I know there are a lot of the sickest kids in the world in the St. Jude ICU, but the nurses get to see most of those kids get better. It’s really cool to see them go from being down at their lowest point to going home or back to the regular floor.”
When she graduates from nursing school in May 2014, Ashley knows exactly what she wants to do.
“I’m going straight back to St. Jude,” she says.
Abridged from Promise, Winter 2014