Jazmyne Victorian will walk across the stage during commencement in the presence of her mother and grandmother who have both endured battles with cancer. She also took 22 hours to reach her goal of graduating in May. An only child and a student-athlete at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff who played on the Women’s Basketball team, she will receive a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Social Work.
“I would like to say that I am very proud of myself for such an accomplishment, but I would not have gotten this far without my immediate family,” Victorian said. “They were my strength when I had none left in me.”
In the fall of her senior year of high school in 2011, her mother Alisha Lilly was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and was not expected to be able to fight through it – the cancer was very aggressive and spread to over 60 percent of her body. All the news came at once and all she could think was “what a senior year – I would lose a piece of my heart”. Her grandmother saw the despair and immediately hugged her telling her that with God in their hearts, and leading the way my mother would be okay.
“The whole year was filled with prayer, and many nights of crying,” Victorian said. “The stages of chemotherapy and radiation took the biggest toll on me the most. I was expected to keep good grades, continue to play basketball at a high level, and also find a way to college on scholarship.”
Accomplishing all of this seemed like such a tall task for a 17 year old, but Victorian’s family cheered her on in whatever ways they could. She recalls many games where her family was not able to be present to cheer for her due to doctor visits and emergency room runs. Victorian graduated high school in 2011 with a 4.0 and received a full ride basketball scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
All of these were major accomplishments, but it was not the end of the road. In 2012 Victorian’s mother went into remission, and fall 2013 she was told that the cancer had come back.
“My world seemed to be crashing, at this point, but my support system never budged, and never grew weak. I was encouraged day in and day out to continue to do my best in all that I do.”
As her mother got better, her grandmother got worse. In Fall 2014, her grandmother Iris Lilly was also diagnosed with cancer and was expected to do a series of radiation treatments. Any time Victorian had a chance to go home were cherished due to being 7 hours away.
Because Victorian was determined to graduate this semester, she took 22 hours – the average full load is 18 – while still continuing to play basketball. She didn’t tell her coaches what was going on at home because she didn’t want the sympathy.
“Even though I cried myself to sleep some nights, because I didn’t inform anyone of the situations I had,” Victorian said. “I would always call home to pray and make sure everyone was taking care of themselves.”
Senior night at the Women’s Basketball game was one of the proudest moments Victorian had at UAPB. A close second would be pledging the Alpha Rho chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Not only did Victorian get to see her family at the Senior Night game, but she got to see her grandmother and mother smile and cheer for her in the last home game of her collegiate career.
“This spring has been the most trying semester I have had throughout my years here,” Victorian said. “I made it work with the help of my teachers, coaching staff and family believing in me every step of the way.”
She is proud to say that after a long five years of continuous battles, she made it.
“Within the four years span, I get the opportunity to give my granny the one thing she has lived for – and that is to see me walk across the stage for the very last time.”