Bailey Eich has never been a quitter, and a cancer diagnosis is not enough to hold her back from achieving her dreams of becoming a registered nurse. Earning her associates degree, all while being treated for cancer, was just the first step toward reaching her goal.
Bailey began college at St. Cloud State University the fall after graduating from East Central High School in 2017. She had lingering pain and discomfort in her side, along with difficulty breathing and decided to go to the doctor. She was diagnosed in the fall of her freshman year of college with stage 3 Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer which usually affects people ranging from 10 to 20 years of age, and began chemotherapy treatment in November of 2017 to shrink the tumor before it could be surgically removed.
Her professors arranged for her to take the remainder of her classes online, and she was able to move home to Askov. Bailey continued school and treatment. Once the tumor shrank, she underwent surgery that, along with the tumor, would take three of her ribs, the lower lobe of her right lung and a piece of her diaphragm muscle because the tumor had filled her right chest cavity. Then she continued with more chemotherapy infusions.
Her freshman year, Bailey made it on the dean’s list both semesters. All while receiving treatment.
During the summer of 2018, she enrolled online at Lake Superior Community College (LSC) while she was temporarily staying in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic for radiation treatment.
Bailey went into remission for three months until a relapse of cancer occurred on Jan. 30, 2019. She had surgery in hopes to remove the new tumor, but due to complications with an air leak in her lung, she was sent home with a chest tube for 105 days which resulted in three large infections and most nights spent at the hospital. Once again, she began chemotherapy and planned to undergo a bone marrow transplant once she finished chemotherapy. However, it was discovered that the tumor continued to grow through chemotherapy, so July 1, she will begin an immunotherapy clinical trial.
“Every day is a physical and mental challenge,” said Bailey.
But on June 6, Bailey’s day brightened as she was presented with her associate degree from Lake Superior Community College in which she earned a cumulative GPA of 3.63.
“As I was admitted to Essentia Health St. Mary’s hospital, Lake Superior’s Dean of Students Wade Gordon, the wonderful staff of Essentia Health and my parents surprised me with the presentation of my degree,” said Bailey. “As they presented me with my degree, I was overwhelmed with shock and happiness. It made me feel very loved and accomplished as my oncology team and school collaborated to create this exciting, memorable experience.”
“It was a very emotional moment as they took their time to recognize her accomplishment,” said Sheila Eich, Bailey’s mom.
“I was blown away that a college would take time away from their busy schedule to present a degree to an individual. I was so proud,” added Jason Eich, Bailey’s dad.
Bailey said that disability services at LSC were a huge part of her achievement as they made accommodations for her situation, including a private testing area and unlimited support.
“The majority of classes I took to receive my AA degree were online because of the rapidly changing schedule of cancer treatment,” said Bailey.
Bailey’s immediate plans include focusing on her treatment and then working toward earning her Bachelor of Nursing degree.
The Eich family has been very grateful for the support they’ve received from the community.
“Family, friends and complete strangers have reached out to help in any way possible,” said Bailey. “An anonymous donor sent gas cards for months which makes us feel very grateful. My great-aunt also created a Go Fund Me page which included many generous donors allowing my parents to take time off work and get me to treatment.”
The GoFundMe account set up for Bailey can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/k9c6y-bailey039s-battle.
“I am struggling to express my feelings accurately,” she added. “But I am just overwhelmed with support, love and compassion from everyone.”