CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Valerie Hudgens and her husband Jerry, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, have supported each other during a very challenging time in their lives. Now the couple will celebrate her success together when Hudgens walks the stage to receive her Master of Science in Nursing at the 2014 Summer Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 9, at 10 a.m. in the American Bank Center Arena.
Throughout Jerry’s battle against cancer, the couple cheered each other on to overcome any challenges they faced, whether it was schoolwork or chemotherapy. Hudgens recalls that on the day back in 2002, when her husband was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, they both felt like they had been hit in the chest with a sledgehammer.
“I could barely catch my breath,” said Hudgens. “We have been married almost 17 years and since that day, we have been inseparable.”
Hudgens and her family received the shocking news that Jerry’s prostate cancer had returned and metastasized to his bones just as she was completing her first year of nursing school at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Hudgens says that she initially returned to school in 2003, to finish her Bachelor of Science in Nursing because of her husband’s encouragement. He also encouraged her to pursue her Master’s in 2010.
“My husband is my biggest supporter,” said Hudgens. “He was the one who asked me about what I wanted to be when I grew up and encouraged me to get my degree.”
While enrolled in classes, Hudgens worked part-time as an education coordinator at the Victoria Post-Acute Specialty Hospital and supported her husband during his chemotherapy treatments at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. During this time, she made a promise to her husband that she would not give up on her education.
“My biggest challenge has been keeping balance in our life and not missing what may be Jerry’s last Christmas, a fishing trip to the Laguna Madre, or a church service,” said Hudgens. “Staying focused enough to learn all I can in my courses while maintaining good grades and not sacrificing time with my family has been a challenge.”
A strong network of supporters included her daughter, Kingslee Mitchell and her family; and Portlyn Brogger and Caren Adamson, who worked with her in Victoria.
Most encouraging were the instructors in the graduate nursing program at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, including Dr. Eve Layman, Associate Dean for Graduate Nursing Programs, who made sure Hudgens was offered every opportunity to succeed.
Hudgens, who has demonstrated outstanding performance as a student, completed her final capstone project at the Victoria Post-Acute Specialty Hospital. There she designed a protocol that improved the safe administration of the anticoagulant medication, Warfarin. The new protocol is now under consideration for adoption throughout the hospital system.
Although Jerry is slowly losing his battle against cancer, Hudgens maintains her faith and knows that the strong network of people surrounding them will help them to stay positive.
“Caring for Jerry, loving him, and being his wife are all some of my greatest accomplishments,” said Hudgens. “Now earning my Master’s in Nursing Leadership and Management is something we are equally proud of. I can check it off my bucket list.”