From two cancer diagnoses to 2023 EICC graduate; Briana Hesse gave it her all.

Briana Hesse knows the vital role support and encouragement play when striving to reach a goal. And she got lots of it, at home and at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC).

In the short span of three years, Hesse pushed through two cancer diagnoses, a string of chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries. At the same time, she was caring for her three sons and taking online classes to earn an EICC associate’s degree.

And she did it all, crossing the stage in the May 2023 Commencement Ceremony at the Clinton Community College (CCC) campus. Now she plans to transfer and continue her education. Hesse’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s in psychology and use her education to support and encourage others.

“I want to work in pediatric psychology. I could ask for nothing more. That would be the most wonderful dream I could ever ask for,” she said.

The past three years were very challenging for Hesse. In October 2020, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, which progressed quickly. After four rounds of chemotherapy, she had a complete mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

After Hesse healed, a check-up scan revealed a malignant tumor on her colon. Another round of medical appointments, infusions, and surgery followed. “And I am proud to say that I am cancer-free today. I can finally walk across this stage, which was my goal from the very beginning. I am so proud,” she said.

Hesse didn’t take a break from classes or other responsibilities during her treatment. At times, she didn’t know how I could do it all, “but I had to because it was for my boys. They were my little cheerleaders and they kept me going,” she said of her three sons, ages 13, 12, and nine.

“My boys, they watched me not give up, and it was encouraging to hear them say, ‘Mom, I am so proud of you.’ That made it all worth it and I wouldn’t go back in time and change it. Cancer or not, I am so much stronger today,” Hesse added.

There were many others who walked with her every step of the way. “I had a lot of support from friends and all of this (EICC) staff,” she said, specifically calling out the testing center and CCC registrar Mardell Mommsen. “She’s absolutely wonderful. She’s the reason I’m walking across this stage because I just wasn’t sure I could push myself to do this, but she got me here,” she said.

Looking back, Hesse is proud of all she’s accomplished and excited about her future.

“I want people to understand that life is short and battles are tough. You want to give up. You want to break down. You want to scream. You want to cry,” she said. “I’ve been there; but keep pushing forward. It’s so worth it. In the end, you’ll get through it. It is so worth it.”