Shortly before her high school graduation, Danville’s Delores Yocum quit school, opting to lead a different path. Now, 40 years later, she is on the verge of graduating from Bluegrass Community and Technical College with a degree in medical information technology with an emphasis in administrative options.
Yocum, who has faced many struggles through her life, including a brain aneurysm six months before receiving a breast cancer diagnosis for the third time, said the important thing is to keep going.
The self-described survivor was first diagnosed with cancer when she was 40. Seven years later, on her birthday, she went in for regular testing and was diagnosed a second time. Six months after having the aneurysm, which had forced her to take time off from school, she was diagnosed the third time.
“God is with me,” Yocum said, explaining that battling and surviving those illnesses showed her there is something more God wants her to do. She determined that she is simply to help people. “That’s my calling.”
So, she volunteers every chance she gets, through Harvesting Hope and United Way fundraisers, and through working at the student support center at the college.
Yocum also helped create the first newsletter, recognizing students’ achievements. Really, she said, “I just roll up my sleeves” and start working when needed.
A cause near and dear to her heart is breast cancer awareness because of her personal battles with the disease. Having experienced the disease, she stresses the importance of seeking out information.
“There are resources, if you continue to seek and ask, there will be someone to help,” she said.
Being that voice, to help those struggling to find the help they need, especially in the medical field, is what inspired Yocum to pursue her career path. She always had been interested in the field, working as a nursing assistant and other similar careers over the years.
It was in 1984 that Yocum first decided to finish her education, obtaining her GED. After battling with some early health issues, she decided it was time to go to college and get a degree.
The last time she was diagnosed with cancer and had to put her education on hold, she told some of her teachers and classmates that she was determined to finish the degree, even if they have to “roll me across the stage on a gurney.”
“If I can do it, anyone can,” Yocum said.
In December, she plans to graduate with her associate’s degree, completing an education that has been years in the making.
By working toward her education and sharing her experience, Yocum hopes others will find encouragement to keep going.
“No matter how bad things get, if you pull yourself up by your boot straps, you can succeed,” she said, adding that “anything worth having is worth working for.”
Getting an education, she said, is valuable for young people, who should be willing to take the opportunity when it comes around.
For Yocum, a grandmother of three, being able to work toward an education is also, she hopes, an inspiration for her grandchildren, who she said were her biggest inspiration.
“If Granny can go to school,” she said with a laugh, they should be confident knowing they can, too.
Her work has garnered Yocum attention across the area, as she is being named the Boyle County Impact Award winner, an award given to women in the Bluegrass Area Development District for their efforts to improve the lives of women and girls in the area.
Simply being nominated for the award was an honor for Yocum, who would love to be able to do more to help women in the area.
“If I was to win the lottery,” she said, a smile on her face, “I would have a center for women.” At the center of her dreams, she explained, women would be taught life skills, and she would give them six months to really get back on their feet.
“It’s one thing to give them a room for a night,” Yocum said. After they learned the skills, she would help them “graduate” into the world beyond and help them with getting a job and a home, things she said that people need in order to thrive.
Yocum is also being awarded the Bluegrass Alliance for Women 2013 Lifelong Learning Scholarship funded by the AARP. The alliance will host a luncheon March 19 to recognize women who are making an impact in the area.