When Casey McCluskey was diagnosed with a malignant breast tumor near the end of her first year of medical school, the unexpected news meant a lot of upheaval.
“School had to be put in the background. All my summer plans had to be put in the background,” she said. “I had to focus suddenly on being a patient instead of being a med student, which was not an easy transition to make.”
As she grappled with her situation, McCluskey drew strength from the immediate, unstinting support of her classmates, the close-knit “Scrubs” of the Boonshoft School of Medicine class of 2012.
“Being away from home when all this happened,” she said, “I had my ‘family’ down here.”
Her family in Akron, including five brothers and sisters, did what they could as well, including starting an “orange ribbon” campaign that combined the symbol of breast cancer awareness with McCluskey’s lifelong favorite color. They sent her photos of orange ribbons displayed all over town, began collecting orange ribbons from other states and countries as the campaign spread, and even got the slogan “Orange is the New Pink” chalked onto the route of the 2009 Tour de France.
McCluskey’s classmates were quick to jump on this brightly colored bandwagon as well.
“On our last day of school,” she said, “I showed up for my last exam, and the entire class was wearing orange.”
Following successful surgery over the summer, McCluskey is now back in school and keeping up with classes while undergoing chemotherapy. She is hopeful, more motivated than ever to become a physician and make a difference for patients, and still deeply moved by everything her classmates have done (and continue to do) for her.
“It’s been very overwhelming to have that amount of support,” she said. “In a way, it’s been kind of a beautiful experience, for people to have an excuse to tell you that they love you, that they care about you. It’s pretty humbling to have that.” VS