It was March of 2011. Melanie Dollens’ head was cold, but her heart and smile were warm with pride. She had just had her shaved head for the first time as part of a St. Baldrick’s childhood cancer research fundraising event.
This was one of her ways to pay it forward for a kindness and miracle that her family had experienced just four years earlier.
Her daughter, Morghan, had remarkably overcome medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Morghan’s battle with the disease inspired Dollens to enroll in the Columbia College nursing program. Not only did Dollens earn her associates degree in nursing in May of 2014, she was also awarded the nursing class awards for both Academic Excellence and Clinical Excellence.
And the educational journey has not stopped there for the mother of five. She is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Columbia College while also working weekends at the University of Missouri Hospital in, of all places, the NeuroScience unit, paying it forward once again.
Read more about Dollens below in the latest CC Focus:
Why did you decide to enroll in the Columbia College RN-to-BSN program?
“I decided to continue on with Columbia College because I like the 8 week sessions. It is easier for me to focus on one class at a time while I am working and raising a family.”
Where you do work, and what do you do?
“I work for the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics on the NeuroScience Unit as a RN. I provide direct patient care to patients that have had strokes, spine surgeries, brain tumor removals, seizures and many other neurological issues.”
Tell us about your family.
“I have been married to my husband, Andy for 18 years. We have five kids: Aonghus (pronounced angus) is 16 and is a junior in high school, Morghan 15, is a Freshman, Connor 11 is in the 6th grade; Laura 9 is in 3rd grade; and Lawrence (we call him “Mac”) is 7 in the 1st grade. We live in the country outside of Centralia, Missouri, where we have a farm that we raise cattle on.”
Tell us about your hobbies.
“I love baking for my family. Reading is one of my favorite things to do. I also enjoy photography. Mostly, I enjoy spending time with my kids.”
Tell us something about yourself not many people know.
“I am a rather shy person. I started to come out of my shell when I became a “shavee” for St. Baldrick’s, an organization that raises money for childhood cancer by hosting head-shaving events. I really stepped out of my comfort zone when I did that. I had to speak publicly for the first time, and I was the first person to get my head shaved. It was after that event that I decided to go to Columbia College and become an RN.”
What is your favorite movie and/or TV show?
“Criminal Minds has always been one of my favorite shows. My favorite movies would be a toss-up between “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Natural”.”
What is your favorite kind of music or your favorite artist/song?
“I don’t really have a favorite kind of music. I listen to whatever suits my mood at the time. The song that I will turn the volume up for every time is Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.
What is/was your favorite subject, and why?
“I think the science and math classes in general have been my favorite classes. Probably, because there is a right or wrong answer, so you either know the answer or you don’t.”
Tell us a time during your life where you have overcome adversity to accomplish your goals.
“One of the biggest adversities I have faced in my life was when my daughter, Morghan, was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 6 years old. She had surgery, radiation treatment and chemotherapy to treat her cancer. She will never be considered “cured” so I had to decide how I wanted to live my life with the knowledge that any day, I could hear that those dreaded words that her cancer has returned. I had to ask myself if a life of worrying was what I wanted to reflect back on, or did I want memories of good times and bad. I decided to live and make memories with my family because worrying won’t change the outcome.
While I am taking classes, balancing work, school and family can be difficult. I choose to work a weekend package at the University of Missouri so I can be home during the week for football games, choir and orchestra concerts, and various other school functions that happen during the week. It also allows me to do school work during the day while the kids are in school.”
Where are you from originally?
“I have lived in or around Centralia, Missouri, my entire life. I love the small town atmosphere, but it is nice having close access to Columbia, Missouri.”
When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be? Why?
“When I was 10 I wanted to be a veterinarian. I wanted to help sick or injured animals.
Who or what influenced you in your education or your profession?
“My mom is a nurse. I was always really proud to say that when I was a kid. When I was 20 years old, I went to LPN school like my mom.”