Tarrant County College student gets degree in nursing after both of her parents diagnosed with cancer

Many commencement ceremonies are taking place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that doesn't mean graduates aren't being recognized.

One Tarrant County College graduate managed to receive her associate’s degree in nursing while taking care of her parents who were both diagnosed with cancer.

Tarrant County College is putting a spotlight on a young woman whose will to persist against tragedy is truly inspiring.

Photographs of graduate Ashley Watson mark the completion of her associate’s degree in nursing.

They also signify the strength it took to make that possible.

"With my dad being diagnosed with cancer again and then passing away, and then with my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer and being able to survive, I knew oncology was where I was supposed to be at," she said.

Watson started the ADN program at Tarrant County College in the fall of 2017, a dream she's always had.

But that dream was put on hold after she found out her father had metastatic prostate cancer.

"I wanted to be there for him and make sure I could care for him in his final days,” she said. “So I actually moved him from Minnesota to be down here in Texas with me. I stayed with him 24/7."

Watson said her decision to postpone her second semester wasn't a difficult one because she wanted to be by her father's side when he passed, which she was. 

Months later, she picked up where she left off, reaching her final semester this spring.

But in mid-March, her family was hit with unexpected tragedy again.

Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, quickly undergoing surgery and radiation.

Watson said watching the nurses who cared for both of her parents solidified that this career is her calling.

"I want to be that light in someone's life while they're going through the most traumatic events in their life and just really being able to help in the best way possible," Watson said.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all of Watson's classes were pushed online.

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She said it turned out to be a silver lining, as she was able to finish her program while taking care of her mother full-time.

It may not be the traditional graduation she had imagined, but neither was her journey to get to this point.

"It's really easy sometimes to give up, but for me, I knew that I couldn't give up. I couldn't give up because I promised my dad that I was going to finish nursing school,” she said. “And I know my mom was so proud of me being the first person, you know, to go to college."

Watson already has a job waiting for her. She starts a residency program in Waco this summer.

She is also completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing online.

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