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When Words Aren’t Enough


I joined the Zeta Sigma chapter of Kappa Delta at the College of Charleston in August of 2011. From the very beginning, I felt welcomed and knew I made the right decision. I had an amazing group of women surrounding me and supporting me throughout my four years of college. Almost every weekend, we would explore Charleston and, of course, never missed a $5 burger night at Cypress. An older member of the chapter helped me break into my career field as an assistant interior designer, which was my absolute dream job. I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience, and Kappa Delta was a huge part of it.

In 2015, I graduated with a business degree and full-time associate interior designer job at a firm in Charleston, South Carolina.  Although I was sad to be leaving my college years behind, I knew I didn’t have to leave Kappa Delta behind. Many women from our chapter stayed in Charleston after graduation. I was thrilled to have sisters close by as we moved through another phase of life together.

A few months after graduation, I went to the doctor with severe chest pain after pulling some muscles lifting a large box. This led to my diagnoses: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that produces an abnormal amount of white blood cells. Up until then, I had been an extremely healthy 23-year-old. I even ran a half marathon earlier in the year. I was in complete shock.

I soon began my treatment, which includes six to eight rounds of chemotherapy with five days and four nights in the hospital and weekly blood draws between rounds. My sisters were there for me, as always.

After my fourth round of treatment, I received the sweetest gift from my pledge sisters. My friend Franny organized the group to write me letters of support. The outside of each envelope was marked—“when words aren’t enough,” “when you’re feeling sad,” “when you need a workout,” “when you need a big push.” This gift truly meant the world to me and helped me through some difficult times.

I am currently going on my fifth round of chemotherapy and, hopefully, will be finishing up in February. My KD sisters continue to give me strength and support even on my toughest days, and I am forever thankful.

I’m not letting my diagnosis slow me down. After treatment, I will be going back to school for my masters in interior design and architecture. I know my sisters will be there for me every step of the way. I’ve learned Kappa Delta sisterhood doesn’t leave you when you graduate; it stays with you through the good times and the unpredictable moments…even, as in my case, throughout a difficult cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Shannon Voelkel
Zeta Sigma-College of Charleston