Alumna's Cancer Scare and Story Saves the Life of Another Alumni
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A Life-Saving Story

As nurse-practitioner student Sharla E. Morgan (BS ’05, MS ’12) tipped her head back, the bulge momentarily appeared, just to the right of her windpipe, an inch above her collarbone. In a fall 2009 BYU nurse-practitioner class on physical assessment, as instructor Sabrina D. Jarvis (MS ’90) taught her students how to examine the head and neck, Jarvis caught a chance glimpse of the mass on Morgan’s neck. After inspecting the mass more closely, Jarvis told Morgan, “You need to get this checked out right away.”

Sharla Morgan and Kimberli Seely
Sharla Morgan (standing), a nurse practitioner at the Thyroid Institute of Utah, has a special relationship with Kimberli Seely, who found a lump in her neck after watching a video about Morgan’s own experience with thyroid cancer. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Morgan soon learned that the lump was suspicious for cancer, and within a week she was in surgery to have her thyroid removed. Being in the right place at the right time helped save Morgan’s life, but she never thought her story would help save another’s as well.

At first Morgan felt hesitant to share that story publicly. In the end she decided to take a leap of faith and agreed to a story in the spring 2012 issue of BYU Magazine. Her experience was also covered in newspapers and a BYU-created video. “If somebody else could benefit from this story being told,” she says, “then it was worth putting myself into an uncomfortable place.”

Three years later Kimberli K. Seely (BA ’93, MA ’01), a happily married BYU alumna and mother living in Idaho, noticed a bump on her neck. Having already battled breast cancer, she knew not to dismiss a lump. Just then, she recalled a BYU-produced video she had seen several years earlier—Sharla Morgan’s story. “Her teacher found the lump in her neck and said, ‘You should have it checked out.’ I’d always remembered that,” Seely says. “So when I found that lump, I thought, ‘I need to have that checked out.’”

Soon Seely found herself sitting in her doctor’s office speaking with the nurse-practitioner, who asked how Seely had discovered the small lump and determined to have it checked out. As Seely described the video she had seen, she made a sudden realization.

“I looked at her, and it was almost like there was just this light bulb, this connection between the two of us,” Seely says.

“You know, that video was about me,” the nurse-practitioner, Morgan, told her.

Seely is grateful for the network of BYU alumni and their willingness to share their successes and their trials with others. With their unique bond, Morgan and Seely remain in touch today. “We don’t realize sometimes [that] in sharing our stories, it blesses other people,” says Seely, who is now cancer free. “The fact that I paid attention to that video, that one, single day—what a difference.”