From a registered nurse in her hometown of Lake Village, Arkansas, to the confines of the Hub City, Corey Auerswald has never seen a challenge too big for her to conquer. One of her closest friends, CRNA nursing major Lauren Robertson, has seen the compassion of Auerswald touch the lives of everyone around her.
“She (is) sweet and super smart,” Robertson said. “She took the best care of her patients and everybody loved her.”
On Thursday, Sept. 24, the College of Nursing threw a surprise party for Auerswald, who is going through her last round of chemotherapy. From students across the department to professor Vickie Stuart, everyone came out to support a woman who touches so many of their lives.
“I think this captures the essence of Dr. Bennett’s initiative on student retention,” Stuart said. “At the faculty level, student level and everything in between, we were able to keep her in the program.”
Day by day, Auerswald comes to class, never having a frown on her face.
“(We see her) as a regular student, just one that has been dealt a great challenge in life,” Stuart said. “We wanted her to know that we supported her and the decisions that she made on how she would approach the disease.”
Auerswald never saw an obstacle she could not overcome. She was already a recognized nurse back home but wanted to chase a bigger dream. That is when she decided to pack it all up and move to Hattiesburg, hand-in-hand with Robertson.
They were accepted into the nursing program at USM in January 2015, and Auerswald has nearly kept a 4.0 GPA while maintaining a family life back home. With a husband and a two-year-old child to keep happy, Auerswald is juggling a heavy load. With Robertson by her side, she sees no challenges that could bring her down.
“Shortly into the first semester, she felt a lump,” Robertson said. “I said, ‘Oh Corey, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.’”
As a nurse, Auerswald knew how to take care of herself. She regularly went to the doctor for check-ups, had healthy eating habits and exercised regularly. But that healthy lifestyle would not prepare her for the news she heard while at a check-up at the doctor’s office, while studying for an upcoming final exam.
“We took our books for finals and we were studying on the couch in the waiting room,” Robertson said. “She went back and she knew from the ultrasound what it looked like— it was breast cancer.”
Distraught by Auerswald could not believe it happened to her of all people. She realized that she had a family history of breast cancer, but she was very careful. With a healthy lifestyle combined with monthly checkups at home, she never imagined that it could happen to her.
But her spirit could not be broken. Her classmates helped to pick up the slack while she went through her treatments. Also, the nursing program at USM created a Go Fund Me page to show support for Auerswald. On that page, they raised over $10,000 in only four months.
“One thing they did for me was to make a website for me,” Auerswald said. “They would always make such nice comments and everything.”
Auerswald was never fazed by the diagnosis, because that is just the woman she is. Her classmates uplift her, and her family supports her through her treatments. People are motivated to help her through in any way that they can. From that, Auerswald touches more people than she could have ever imagined.
Auerswald may have cared and helped those patients back in Arkansas with just her nursing skills. But she inspires many more with her fighting spirit in her battle with cancer, just by coming to class.