TSU Student Makes Triumphant Return To Campus As She Continues Fight Against Rare Cancer
Zaria Hunter, a Tennessee State University student pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, is embodying the tiger spirit in her battle with a rare form of cancer.
by Evie B.
October 17, 2022 at 4:52 pm
As she remains forceful throughout her fight against a rare form of cancer, Zaria Hunter stays in positive spirits and refuses to lose hope. This semester, she victoriously returned to Tennessee State University (TSU) to continue her studies.
Last spring, Hunter energetically commenced her sophomore year pursuing her studies in agriculture sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine, ready to conclude another academic year successfully.
However, when she began to experience severe headaches regularly, Hunter’s excitement was put on hold, and the course of her school year changed. In her mind, she didn’t think her headaches were of serious worry and believed the pain would eventually pass with some medication.
At 19 years old, the last thing on her mind was turning 20 admitted to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, battling such an illness. Hunter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer rapidly spreading throughout her body. In April 2021, it was identified as stage 4, and her family discovered that the disease had already affected many areas of her body.
“It was in my liver, brain, lungs, spine, and hip bone,” Hunter shared, according to the news release sent to a Blavity.
The vehement fight for her life continued. While she was a resident for five months at St. Jude, Hunter lived through some challenging moments and went into a coma several times, one of which lasted four days.
“That’s when things were getting rough,” she expressed.
At one point, Hunter lost a significant amount of weight; standing at 5-foot-4 inches tall, she weighed only 85 pounds. She was frail and even lost the ability to walk, and she wasn’t giving up. Zaria also underwent seven rounds of intravenous chemotherapy and surgery to have a port implanted in her chest.
While the Atlanta native was In Memphis for treatment, one of her longtime friends from high school, Chayne Alexander, heard about Hunter and prayed for her healing. Alexander is also a student at TSU and was eagerly awaiting her return.
“her family had reached out to her friends, and once I found out, I instantly started crying because I’ve experienced this feeling before when I lost my granddad, so I was hurt to the core,” Alexander said, the news release reports.
Many friends of Hunter were keeping the faith alive with supportive words and praying for her daily, shared Alexander. The Associate Dean For Academics in the College of Agriculture, Dr. De ‘Etra Young, also had positive thoughts and prayers for the young student.
“When Zaria was hospitalized, we communicated frequently,” Dr. Young also noted that Hunter’s heart was set to return to TSU and was concerned about her schoolwork.
“Her desire to return to school while fighting cancer is determination that I have never seen before,” expressed Young. “She inspires me. Her resilience speaks to the caliber of what type of student she is. To know that she is still fighting and staying uplifted, I look forward to the day she graduates,” Young added. “Once a tiger, always a tiger.”
Hunter’s strength is admirable, and her dedication is incredible. Despite her struggle with this illness and how unwell she became, fellow students and professors, say that Hunter always smiled and remained optimistic throughout her journey.
After five months of being treated at St. Jude, Hunter was finally released and began her daily dosage of chemotherapy.
“I never lost who I was when I was in the hospital,” she shared. “I kept high spirits and stayed positive.”
Hunter returned to Nashville this semester and is now only combating a small ratio of cancer that remains in her lungs. Once a month, she visits St. Jude for a checkup and is now proudly back at TSU this semester pursuing her dream of becoming a veterinarian.
“It feels great to be back,” she cheerfully said. “My determination to be better and to do better kept me going … I was praying for these better days,” shared a smiling Hunter.
It got tricky for Hunter at times. She shared that balancing her social life and school while battling cancer wasn’t an easy task, but she is up for the challenge.
“God let me know that it was going to get rough in the beginning, but … I never gave up on myself,” she noted.
Hunter is looking forward to being cancer free and achieving her degree, ultimately becoming a veterinarian. She is thankful and expressed her gratitude for her support system at TSU.
We are proud of you, Zaria Hunter, and will keep you in our prayers, sis. Your energy and spirit are immensely commendable.