While studying business at The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, Noakes noticed a small lump near his clavicle. Only 19 years old at the time, he saw a nurse practitioner who immediately sent him to the emergency room for further screening.
Devastating news soon followed: It was Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After a half-dozen rounds of chemotherapy, Noakes was feeling well enough to return to school, but things had changed. Disillusioned with business, he switched his major to public health. He briefly considered pursuing a medical degree, but soon realized that wasn’t the right fit.
“I absolutely hated it. At the time, the cancer was still too fresh in my life,” said Noakes, now a second-year Master of Nursing student at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. “I had started seeing a therapist to address my trauma, but I recognized that I couldn’t provide the quality health care I wanted for people if I was still dealing with that. Medical school tends to be sterile, clinical. I wanted to be more personal.”
During the last year of his undergraduate studies, Noakes noticed a small rash on his neck and visited the same nurse practitioner who had predicted his first diagnosis.
“She just looked at me and said, “Based on your history, this shows signs of thyroid cancer,’” he said. “I was devastated.”
Fortunately, all that was needed this time was a small surgery over spring break, and he was again cancer-free.