January 30, 2014

In “Fighting for Fugate,” which originally appeared in The Daily Campus January 26, 2014, reporter Jehadu Abshiro tells the story of Jennifer Fugate ’13, who was diagnosed with cancer late last year. Since then, the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering student graduated from SMU with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and started chemotherapy. The Lyle School, students and alumni have rallied around the alumna, organizing “Fighting for Fugate” fundraisers to help cover mounting medical expenses.


Fighting for Fugate

By Jehadu Abshiro
Starting a new career, renting an apartment, buying a new car and even finding love is what many college students expect their futures hold for them when they graduate. Oct. 31 is also a night that most college students see as a night of partying.

It’s what SMU alumna Jennifer Fugate expected when she started her last semester at SMU in fall 2013.

For Fugate, Oct. 31, 2013, was the day when her entire life was flipped upside down. She was admitted into Baylor Hospital at Plano after suffering from severe pain in her right hip for about three months.

“It was literally the worst timing ever,” Fugate said. “A month before college ended.”

An electrical engineering major, she had four job offers, including two from John Deere and General Motors, which she was deciding on. She had to turn all four down.

Fugate’s right hip was four times bigger than her left hip and after a high contrast MRI, doctors found a tumor. The tumor was so large that it broke her hip in half. Her team of 10 doctors at Baylor couldn’t pinpoint the specific type of cancer and sent her lab results to Harvard.

“At one point, no one could figure it out,” Fugate said. “My insurance company wanted to kick me out of the hospital because the doctors couldn’t do anything.”

She was on pain medication every two hours.

“This period was such haze,” Fugate said. “I couldn’t walk at all. I had to have help to the bathroom, it was embarrassing. I used to be so independent.”

Fugate’s mom had to speak to several doctors before the third doctor gave Fugate tests that allowed her to stay in the hospital.

“You can’t just lay in the hospital,” Fugate said. “It was crazy, I can’t go home when I can’t function.”

After Harvard tried three times to narrow her diagnosis, she was diagnosed with an Ewing like Sarcoma. Her specific type of cancer is only found in .6 percent of the population.

Read the full story and see Jennifer’s photo at smudailycampus.com.