KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A cancer diagnosis nearly derailed Cade Hine's college plans. But the care and holistic support he found at Western Michigan University propelled him to a career that fuels his passion and fulfills his calling to help others.
"I don't even think 17-year-old Cade would recognize who I am now. I have seen and experienced so many things throughout (my) years at Western," says Hine, who will graduate Saturday, April 29, with a bachelor's degree in nursing and a new job on the labor and delivery floor at Bronson Methodist Hospital. "I don't think I could have seen myself going anywhere else. Realistically, this was the perfect fit for me; it's exactly what I needed."
Hine has been enamored with Western since his first visit to campus.
"Western was the first school that I toured, and I absolutely loved my experience. The campus was beautiful and everyone was super friendly," he remembers, having made the drive with his parents from their hometown in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to Kalamazoo. The College of Health and Human Services facilities, he says, sealed the deal. "We toured a bunch of other schools afterward … but every school I went to I kept comparing to Western."
He eventually decided to stop the tours and officially commit to being a Bronco. But the excitement to kick off his college career quickly turned to fear the week before he was scheduled to move onto campus. During a routine physical, his doctor found a lump that turned out to be a rare and aggressive form of testicular cancer. Within days, he was scheduled for emergency surgery.
"I don't know if it was just the initial shock of it all, but the first thing I asked (the doctor) was, 'Can I still go to school?' Because I really wanted to come here, and I really wanted to be a nurse," Hine says.
His doctors cautioned him to focus on the surgery first, and then let things fall into place. Miraculously, the procedure was successful and he was cleared to continue with his college plans—though he would still need to drive home often for tests to confirm the cancer did not spread.
"The moment I found out (about the cancer), I was actually texting my orientation leader about what happened and asking what to do. He connected me with Western employees who got me in touch with Disability Services for Students, and I am eternally grateful for the things they provided," he says.
From helping him move in to setting up accommodations to help him move around campus, "they took care of everything. It was amazing. All of my professors were notified … and if I needed anything, like extended time on a test, they gave it to me. Or if I had to miss an exam for any reason, I could make it up. I was taken care of here. And my professors really cared; they all asked, 'How are you doing? What can I do to help you?'"
The personal attention and support helped Hine thrive at Western. As his oncology and pathology visits grew further apart, his connections on campus and relationships with faculty in the Bronson School of Nursing grew stronger.
"In the nursing program, I really feel like they've set me up to be successful. And I've never felt alone; I knew I always had support if I needed it," he says. "We gain a lot of hands-on experience outside of the classroom and build a lot of relationships with nurses and management. When the time comes around for internships or externships, we've all worked in an area of the hospital that we love the most, and that helps us to figure out which areas to apply to."
Initially, Hine thought he wanted to work in a pediatric intensive care unit. Then he completed a hospital rotation. "I learned very quickly that I can't talk to kids. I love them, they're fun, I think they're hilarious—but I can't connect with them. But that same semester I did my obstetrics rounds, and after my first day, I was absolutely hooked."
The prospect of supporting parents on the most important days of their lives really resonated with him. After securing an externship on the labor and delivery floor at Bronson Methodist Hospital, his fate was sealed.
"I've seen multiple babies born … and I've seen the look on the mothers' faces as they get to hold their babies for the first time. I have personally held a first-time mom's hand while she was getting a C-section, and I was able to comfort her throughout the procedure," he says. "I've helped set up the OR for surgery, spent a day working triage and so many other things. I absolutely love my job."
His externship was so successful that he was offered a job in February in the same unit. Now, as he prepares to walk across the stage at Miller Auditorium and receive his diploma officially employed as a nurse, he'll mark another milestone: Five years cancer free.
"The whole cancer surveillance track takes five years, so I get to end this chapter of my life right when I graduate, which is so cool. It's a great representation of how I've been so taken care of here," he says. "I have made lifelong friendships, experienced so many unique things and overcome a lot of hardships … but I have always come out on top."
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