UW-Rock County student survives brain tumor on way to earning degree
JANESVILLE—Lexie Seaver deserves to be super proud when she walks across the stage at UW-Rock County.
The 29-year-old will be among 162 graduates honored Wednesday during a special ceremony.
Along with an associate degree, Lexie is worthy of another certificate. One that proclaims in bold letters: SURVIVOR.
On the way to earning her degree, she weathered a deadly brain tumor the size of a grapefruit.
Many in her situation might have been sidetracked. But facing mortality made Lexie more motivated than ever to get an education.
“I knew I had to go back to school,” she explained.
Lexie enrolled at UW-Rock for the first time in fall 2007. Later, she shattered her elbow and had two surgeries. She also experienced the deaths of her grandparents and a close friend.
“I decided to take some time off because of the emotional toll,” she said.
She re-enrolled eventually, but she began having headaches and extreme fatigue. She also became super depressed. When her grades began to slip, Lexie quit school in the fall of 2010.
“It was just too much,” Lexie recalls. “I was tired all the time. I couldn't get out of bed.”
A doctor diagnosed her with vertigo after she began losing her balance. Eventually, physicians discovered the brain tumor and sent Lexie to University Hospital, Madison. When she met with her surgeon, he told her: “I don't know how you are alive.”
He set surgery a week later.
“The doctor could tell I was freaked out,” Lexie recalls. “Then, he said we need to trust one another. Ultimately, the surgeon said it was up to God. He told me to go home and live like it was the last week of my life.”
Lexie's first surgery was in July 2011, but the surgeon could not take out the tumor. Her brain was too swollen. For nine days, Lexie's medical team worked to reduce the swelling.
Then, she went back to surgery. Her doctor warned that she could be blind, deaf or paralyzed, but none of those things happened.
“My doctor said I defied all the odds,” Lexie said. “He said it is a miracle how I am doing.”
She said the emotional burden is tough.
“I never thought I would be diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer at age 26,” Lexie said. “They gave me five to six months to live without any treatment. Everything I read about the tumor said I would be dead in a year.”
Lexie went through six weeks of radiation therapy. She also changed her diet and began exercising.
“I did well because of God,” Lexie said. “Also because of support from friends, family and people I don't even know. I was positive. I didn't sit around waiting to die.”
Lexie finished her last radiation treatment in December 2011. The following month, she enrolled at UW-Rock to complete what she had started a few years earlier.
“I didn't have to go back to school,” Lexie said. “But I'm proud that I am resilient enough to keep going. I want to do something positive with my life.”
Marylee Kishel, coordinator of adult student services at UW-Rock, calls Lexie one of her favorite students.
"I think so highly of her determination," Kishel said. "She was positive in the face of terrible adversity."
Lexie works as a part-time bartender and wants to finish a bachelor's degree in social work at UW-Whitewater.
But the driven student faces more challenges. Her doctor suggested there might be another tumor deep in her brain.
“They can't say for sure what it is,” Lexie said. “I have to stay positive and believe God will take care of me. Otherwise, all I would do is cry and be depressed.”
She describes her journey as difficult but amazing.
“The outpouring of love and support from people has restored my faith in humanity,” Lexie said. “All of this has changed my life for the better.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org