Health Services went pink to honor nursing assistant

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Caitlyn Oliver

For the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Health Services employees wore pink every Wednesday to honor Deborah Kirkland, a certified nursing assistant who died of terminal cancer this year.

Kirkland began working with Health Services in 2007. As a nursing assistant, she was dedicated to students and loved her job.

“[Kirkland’s] boyfriend lived in South Georgia, and I asked her, ‘Why don’t you go live closer to your boyfriend, why are you still here?’ She would go every weekend to see him or he’d come here,” Diane Norris, director of Health Services, said. “She said, ‘Because I don’t want to leave my job. I love my job and I love taking care of the students.’ It’s a real testament to her and her dedication to the students.”

Kirkland, a breast cancer survivor after 16 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer again in 2011, and was in remission for several years before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in Aug. 2015. She died at age 47 the following January.

While Norris knew the severity of Kirkland’s diagnosis, her job was kept open for her in case she was able to return.

Health Services plans to do more for Breast Cancer Awareness next year, but this year was important because it was the first awareness month after Kirkland’s death.