Marginal Zone Lymphoma Isn’t Stopping This Professor From Showing His School Spirit

According to a story from, Dr. Jorge Figueroa, who has been a teaching for nine years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, has developed a reputation as a campus icon.

Although well-respected as an instructor in public health, Figueroa is probably best known for his biceps; both of his arms sport a UNCW Seahawks logo. These tattoos have practically made the professor a mascot, and he has a strong presence at the university’s home basketball games. While Figueroa got one of the bicep tattoos himself several years ago, the school itself actually approached him in 2015 about getting a matching one on his other arm.

The professor often has athletes in many of his classes, and showing up to games is a way to show support to his students outside of the classroom setting.

Figueroa’s loyalty to the school is not just tattoo deep; When he was being interviewed, he said that he planned on dying at the school.

In truth, this may be a likely outcome for the passionate teacher. Seven years ago, only two years after he began his time at UNCW, he was diagnosed with marginal zone lymphoma. The diagnosis came as complete surprise and was discovered during a regular physical.

Prognosis for marginal zone lymphoma is rarely encouraging; doctors told him that treatment would only extend his life by two years, and he was only given a five percent chance of surviving five years with the cancer. For Figueroa, this came as a stunning blow. As one of the rarest forms of lymphoma, managing the cancer is always a challenge. Click here to learn more about marginal zone lymphoma.
However, two bouts of chemotherapy has bought Dr. Figueroa extra time, and he has been living with the disease for seven years. Despite this success, the strain of the illness and treatments has taken their toll, and the teacher still spends much of his time in pain. In the classroom though, the pain doesn’t mean much to the professor.

Despite the fact that his life may not last much longer, Figueroa finds that the challenges have helped him become more focused about what matters, and for him that means teaching and UNCW.

The place where he said he would die is now the thing keeping him alive.

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