By Emily Jackson
Jamie Ruppel, a Troy student from Napier, Ala. passed away on July 25, 2013 after battling inflammatory breast cancer for more than a year during which friends and family members said she never doubted God’s plan for her life.
“My God is sovereign and has total control over my life,” Ruppel said in her first blog post. “I am so grateful to be alive and serving Him.”
She documented this stage of her life on a blog, jamieruppel.tumblr.com, where she said that everything began in December 2011, when she first discovered a lump in her breast.
After she went to the doctor and was given a misdiagnosis, Ruppel went on a medical mission trip in which she said, “I had the best week of my life serving God and His people in Costa Rica.”
Suzie Lee, a junior biomedical sciences major from Thailand and Ruppel’s close friend, said this trip held some of her favorite memories of Ruppel.
“Being an international student and far from home, she always invited me to come home with her over the weekends and holidays,” said Lee. “One of my favorite memories with her is from Costa Rica when we both went on a mission trip.”
Olivia Dew, a junior social work major from Panama City, Fla. and one of Ruppel’s close friends, said that one of Ruppel’s goals in life was to help children. She said that this was what drove Ruppel to decide on a social work major.
“We were completely consumed by Disney movies,” Dew said. “Anything that has to do with Disney princesses – I think ‘Jamie’ because she loved children.”
However, on June 8, 2012 Ruppel was diagnosed with stage four inflammatory breast cancer, which had spread to both of her lungs, her liver and her bones.
This diagnosis would later keep her from returning to Costa Rica and visiting Disney World in October 2012 with her friends, as well as returning to Troy in fall of 2012 to begin her social work major.
“Jamie was a kind, loving young woman who absolutely loved everything about being a Troy Trojan,” said Traci Ballard, Ruppel’s mother. “The only times she ever got mad or upset during her illness were when she wanted to move back to Troy, and I couldn’t let her because she was too weak to take care of herself.”
Ruppel began weekly chemotherapy treatments on June 21, 2012 that would continue through most of her illness.
In November 2012 they started one of 15 radiation treatments after finding out that the cancer had spread to her brain.
When it became clear to Jamie that she may not be able to finish her degree and go onto help children, she helped those around her – other chemo patients.
As the youngest patient at the clinic, Ruppel decided to make goody bags to give out to the other patients at the clinic.
“She wanted to put lemon drops in the goody bags because you can taste the chemo, and it doesn’t taste good,” Dew said. “She put in scriptures and things like that. This was classic Jamie; it was time for her to be a priority, and she still put others first.”
Ruppel’s mother also saw this side of her daughter during her illness.
“Her positive spirit and loving attitude will be terribly missed,” said Traci Ballard. “Children were her passion and the reason that she wanted to go into social work. I can only imagine what a huge impact she would’ve had in the lives of the children that she wanted to help.”
Although she did not live to see its coming, the church where she worked on her medical mission trip is building a full-time service facility that will be named after her, according to Amy Drinkard.
The Jamie Ruppel Medical Clinic in the community of Barranca, Costa Rica will launch its funding campaign on Sept. 1, 2013 with a website and Facebook page where viewers can partner to pray, donate, volunteer or go to the clinic.
“Overall, people need to know that she wasn’t afraid of death,” said Dew, “and if you have faith in Jesus then there is no reason to fear it.
“She would most definitely want people to come to Christ through her story. In her life that’s how she lived, and I think in her death that’s what she would wish,” said Dew.
Jamie speaks for herself through this blog post.
“I thank Him (God) for this disease,” said Ruppel. “Breast cancer has brought me closer to Him than I have ever been. There have been times when I have been so mad at Him for putting this burden on me, but I am quickly reminded that I am His child and He isn’t going to let me go. I’m not letting go of Him either.”