Perseverance on the path to graduation

By Brad Welborn, Assistant Director of Communications

NSU – Sometimes life comes at you fast and in ways that you don’t fully understand. For Flint Greer, life took a turn he never could have anticipated in the summer of 2017.

A 2014 graduate of Grant High School, Greer enrolled at Northwestern State with a plan. He would spend the next four years pursuing a degree and enter the workforce, a path anyone would love to take. After two and a half years however, his path took a drastic detour.

Falling into academic probation following the Spring 2017 semester, Greer was offered the opportunity to take nine hours of summer classes to remove the probation. Life would have a different plan.

Growing up on a 100-acre farm in Grant Parish, Greer helped his dad with chores and worked with up to 15 horses at a time. Over the years he became the handyman on the property and that role grew larger during the summer of 2017.

An illness that put his father in the hospital for over a week meant everything fell to Greer to maintain the farm. School took a spot on the back burner as life continued to pile on and divert the plan.

While working during that summer, Greer began having migraines that he thought were just bad headaches. For about three months with nothing providing any relief from the pain, a doctor’s appointment in October of 2018 revealed another potential roadblock.

“Everything hit me like that,” he said with a snap of his fingers. “It just came, so I didn’t have time to react. My then-fiancé and parents didn’t know what to think, they just knew that I had something in my head that wasn’t supposed to be there but didn’t know the severity of it.”

An MRI revealed a grade four glioblastoma on his right frontal lobe. One of the worst types of brain tumors that grow at fast and aggressive rates. With no time to waste after the scan, Greer, his family and fiance’ at the time Jamie left for Houston with a new plan – fight.

Less than 48 hours after hearing he had a brain tumor Greer was in an eight-hour surgery to remove the tennis ball sized growth.

Over the next two months Greer underwent radiation treatment five days a week along with chemotherapy treatments seven days a week through the end of the year.

“I leaned on Jamie a lot at that point,” Greer said. “I could tell my parents were stressed to the limit, so I didn’t want to worry them. So, when they asked me how I was doing I would say ‘I’m fine, I’m fine’. For the most part I was, but I didn’t let everybody know that.”

Planned treatments five days a month during the past year continued as the original plan of graduating from Northwestern State started to come back into focus.

While recovering from surgery and enduring radiation and chemotherapy, Northwestern State provided a different kind of care to help restart the degree plan.

“(Head of the Department of Criminal Justice, History, and Social Sciences) Dr. (Mark) Melder was a big support and a friend here,” Greer said. “He scheduled all the classes that I needed, which was a huge help while I was going through my treatments. By the time the spring semester came I was ready to go.”

Reentering school in January of this year the difference in the classroom was night and day. The struggles were gone and a sense of normalcy, at least academically, returned. His work has brought him full circle as he walked across the graduation stage on Friday.

“Knowing that I had people looking out for my best interest meant so much,” Greer said of the support from NSU. “Everybody did the very best they could to help me. It was comforting to know I had someone I could call who would sympathize with me. It was a lot better than talking to a machine or someone I didn’t know.”

The difference a year makes in someone’s life can be striking at times.

December of 2018 saw multiple rounds of radiation after a period of fear and uncertainty for the entire Greer family. A year later, Flint is married to his high school sweetheart, recently spent a honeymoon in Las Vegas and is receiving his diploma, with a new appreciation for life.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Greer said. “Life is fragile and can be gone in an instant. So enjoy it.”