Despite battling cancer twice and rebuilding her Waveland home after Hurricane Katrina, University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast student Liz Zimmerman is optimistic as she works toward her goal of becoming a social worker.
Communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast recently participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, and Zimmerman is also raising awareness about the importance of maintaining good health during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
As she continues her undergraduate studies with graduation a little more than a year away, Zimmerman runs a support group for cancer patients in Bay St. Louis. “My message is I want to see women taking better care of themselves,” she said. “Younger women or older women, you need to know your family history.”
During her battle with uterine cancer, Zimmerman vowed she would attend college if she survived. With her cancer in remission, she enrolled in the nursing program at Southern Miss Gulf Coast in 2005.
But like other Mississippi Gulf Coast residents, Zimmerman was adversely affected by Hurricane Katrina at the beginning of the 2005 fall semester. Living one mile from the beach, she returned home after the storm to a flooded house and half of a roof.
Even in remission and rebuilding after a hurricane, Zimmerman’s health challenges continued. While in her third year of remission from uterine cancer, a large mass was found in her breast. Along with chemotherapy, she decided to move forward with a double mastectomy.
She has since decided becoming a chemotherapy nurse is not her path. Still wanting to help patients with cancer, Zimmerman decided to change her major to social work so she can still use her personal experience in a career to help others facing the disease.
“Liz is an energetic and passionate social work student,” said Dr. Tom Osowski, assistant professor in the School of Social Work. “She is really dedicated to helping others and creating an empathetic response to those going through the same struggles she is.”
It will be three more years before she is considered cancer-free, but until then she’s relying on her inner resolve and support from family and friends to win her battle. “You just have to find out what your strengths are and use them, ” she said.
Liz Zimmerman, an undergraduate social work student at The University of Southern Mississippi, signs a large pink ribbon in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Zimmerman, who has survived cancer twice, has vowed to earn a degree so she can help cancer patients. (Southern Miss photo by Charmaine Schmermund)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu/gulfcoast .