Women Who Inspire: Angelique C. Graham Harlan

After a career as an oncology nurse caring for our nation’s leaders, St. Jude cancer survivor Angelique C. Graham Harlan’s job raising funds for St. Jude feels like a homecoming.

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  •  2 min

 Angelique C. Graham Harlan

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Long before becoming a nurse herself, Angelique C. Graham Harlan knew exactly the kind of nurse she wanted to be. She wanted to be like the nurses at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who, when she was diagnosed with blood cancer in 1988 and referred to St. Jude, sat with her and explained what blood cancer meant and what each chemotherapy medication did. 

The high school honors student and voracious learner wanted to know everything. She was 15 years old, and they treated her like a peer, she said.

 Angelique C. Graham Harlan's mother

Angelique's mother was a nurse

Angelique also wanted to be a nurse like her mother. When Angelique developed a strange bruise on her left thigh after dance practice, her mother sought help from her primary care physician. Her mother’s presence of mind and her swiftness in getting care surely helped save Angelique’s life.

It was her mother who held and calmed her through her first bone marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture. It was her mother who — with the St. Jude nurses — shaved Angelique’s head bald with gentleness after her hair began to fall out from chemotherapy.

“No tears with it because I’d been prepped. I had been told what to expect, so I knew it was coming and wasn’t afraid,” said Angelique. “Plus, I’d seen all the other little kids, and I knew it would grow back even better than it was.”

 Angelique C. Graham Harlan

Angelique and her mother

Angelique said her strength came from the long line of strong women and men in her family. A proud line of educators mostly, who thrived on information and who had, she said, “a massive amount of resolve.” It also came from the sense of invincibility that all teenagers have, said Angelique, and it came from her faith in God and St. Jude.

Angelique’s career as a nurse took her all the way to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she worked for years as an oncology nurse for active-duty veterans, including some of our nation’s highest leaders. “Everything I knew of being a cancer patient [at St. Jude], I used in treating my adult, active-duty and retired professionals that had cancer,” said Angelique. “I went through everything with my patients, told them about every medication, so they could be advocates in their own care.” 

Angelique moved back to Tennessee not long before her beloved mother passed away in 2021. After that loss, she made a bold career change. Angelique now works for ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. “It really is a full circle on the God story,” said the married mother of two.

Still, Angelique had a promise left to keep.

 Angelique and her family

Angelique and her family

“I promised Mom that I would finish my education in her honor, and I did,” said Angelique.

In 2023, Angelique graduated summa cum laude from Samford University’s Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing with her doctorate in nursing practice — and felt her mother’s spirit.

“I’m a daddy’s girl, but Mommy was my everything.”

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