School of Social Work grad and cancer survivor stays Warrior Strong

Having graduated from Wayne State University with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree in 2021, Dorothea Billy was headed toward a career working with children. Before she could even get started, though, she was diagnosed with cancer in November 2022, and instead of attending job interviews, she began attending chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Dorothea Billy“Chemotherapy was extremely hard, but I told myself I would keep going because I knew my purpose was not complete. In the beginning, I was afraid because I didn’t know if it would work. I kept my spirits up with faith, positivity, therapy, family, and friends,” Billy said.

In January of this year, Billy was hired by The Children’s Center as a child behavioral therapist.

“I love children. Children are our future and I take that to heart. I provide therapy to children ages four to six—those children are counting on me, and I will not let them down nor myself,” she said.

In total, she completed seven rounds of chemotherapy, and throughout her chemotherapy treatment, Billy never stopped working.

“The children and families helped me through it all, although they never knew how I was feeling,” she said.

During chemotherapy treatment, she persevered, crediting God, her clients, and biking community for helping her stay positive.

“God’s hands were on me, day in and day out,” she said.

Billy is also grateful for her oncology therapist, who helped her with her emotions during radiation and chemotherapy.

In addition to working during her treatment, Billy continued to cycle up to 50 miles a week, as a member of a local cycling club.

Dorothea Billy in her bike gear“I love cycling because it is fun, and I learn different things and routes in Detroit that I’ve never seen before. Cycling makes me feel included with a diverse group of people.”

While at Wayne State University, Billy called the MSW program “amazing.”

“I recommend it to anyone who is pursuing social work. I was inspired by personal social worker, Beatrice Tyrus, a DHHS foster care worker. She never let me down as a child, and as an adult, she graduated from WSU’s School of Social Work with her MSW,” she said.

Other mentors at WSU that made an impact on her include Tamarie Willis, Professor Danis, and Dean Sheryl Kubiak.

“They all made me feel like I could make it, and that I was worthy of learning. The entire MSW cohort staff never let me down. I loved all the professors,” she said.

In the future, Billy hopes to own several girl’s group homes where she would provide therapy, and eventually become an author. She is also interested in volunteering at the SSW.

Billy just finished a third surgery to have a tumor removed in July and is still recovering.

“What Dorothea has endured and accomplished is truly miraculous,” said Dean Sheryl Kubiak.

“I truly believe that the most important thing to do in any life-threatening health diagnosis is to pray, stay positive, and fight the good fight because you’re worth it.  I’ll be okay because I’m a warrior, not a worrier.”

Author: Laura Hipshire, Editor: Betsy Vanderstelt

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