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Perseverance through adversity

School of Medicine student defeats cancer while completing classes

Sloan Nesbit was finishing up his freshmen year at West Virginia University’s School of Medicine when on April 1, 2016 — April Fool’s Day of all days — he was diagnosed with T-ALL, T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.

It was a diagnosis nobody wants to hear: cancer.

“I was in full disbelief,” Nesbit said. “I had no idea what this would mean for my future, or if I’d even have one.”

Due to his diagnosis, Nesbit withdrew from classes and took a year off of school to focus on his fight against cancer. After his year off, he returned as an online student and split his time between his education and his cancer treatments.

Finally, in the spring of 2018, Nesbit was able to come back to class in person.

“It was a big relief being able to come back to classes,” Nesbit said.

Nesbit said he had a lot of help from WVU when he was able to come back. He was aided by WVU Accessibility Services and his professors understood his situation. Nesbit says his professors were great motivators.

Returning to class was not without its challenges. Nesbit admits that it was tough at times balancing his treatments and classes.

“I remember an obstacle was that once a month I’d have an organic chemistry lab on the same day as my chemotherapy,” Nesbit said. “So, I’d wake up in the morning, go get a round of chemotherapy, which included getting a lumbar puncture and sedated with anesthesia and then having to go to my organic chemistry class two hours later. And it was just as bad as it sounds.”

Nesbit was constantly fatigued. His challenges were not forgiving, and it was constantly an uphill battle.

But all of his fighting and perseverance was worth it.

On Nov. 28, 2018, Sloan Nesbit finished his treatments. After nearly three years of fighting, he beat cancer.

“It was the most extreme level of happiness I could comprehend.”

Nesbit shared the emotional moment with his family and friends. He was finally able to feel his life returning to how it was before his diagnosis. He was left feeling motivated, ecstatic and with a new concept of self.

“After beating my cancer, I knew that nothing I face in life will halt my progress in achieving my goals,” Nesbit said. “If I can beat cancer, then nothing in my future should be able to stop me.”

Now, Nesbit is a senior exercise physiology student at WVU and is set to graduate in December. After graduating, he plans to attend medical school, having been inspired by his cancer, doctors, professors and people in his life.

Nesbit has enjoyed his time at WVU and in his undergraduate program. He says he’s had many opportunities, from working at the Cancer Institute lab as one of five undergraduate fellows, to volunteering at a food pantry and being a part of Student Organ Donations Advocates. Currently, Nesbit is working in the Laura Gibson Lab studying ALL cancer cells and their resistance to chemotherapy.

Nesbit’s time at WVU and his battle with cancer has been as challenging as it has been rewarding, as frightening as it has been motivating, and as serious as it has been thrilling. His journey had its low points, but it was also filled with great heights.

He said his favorite memory was during his first fall back after his defeat against cancer.

“The first football season back as a student was my favorite WVU memory,” Nesbit said. “It was great to get back to going to games, tailgating and just getting to spend time with my friends.”


dw 6/15/20