It began with a cough around the time of Nashville’s 2010 historic flood. For the next two years, doctors poked and prodded Investigations & Special Initiatives Major Renee Albracht. Treatment for allergies, asthma and a stomach bug proved unsuccessful until she saw a hematologist and spent a week in the hospital in June.
“I found out it was Hodgkin’s stage four, and I was elated to have an answer,” Albracht said through a smile.
Speaking about cancer with laughter, Albracht credits her great strength and resilience to the support of her coworkers.
“It has been a challenge because I am independent,” she said. “I quickly had to learn how to depend on other people and let them take care of me. I see this as my ministry. I have learned a lot about what’s important and what matters in life.”
The night before Albracht had her hair cut, Campus Security Major Mike Pruitt handed his clippers to her. She cut Pruitt’s hair as well as her dad’s hair into a low buzz, and the men then razor shaved their heads bald.
“It was in support of her and what she is going through to give her strength. Renee had a ball,” Pruitt said. Several other officers also shaved their heads bald, including Chief of Campus Security Terry White, who has kept up his cut since the summer. “The next day she said that it meant a lot, and it was a lot easier seeing everyone else looking like that.”
Albracht said, “It was so touching. To have that kind of support is amazing.”
Pruitt said he plans to shave his head again in November on the last day Albracht is scheduled to have chemotherapy treatment. They will race to see whose hair can grow back the fastest.
“I know she has had tough time. At the same time, you hear people say, ‘I love Belmont,’ but she really loves working at Belmont and wants to be a big part of it. I think it gives her strength to come to work and take her mind off it. She says that when she is at work, she is in her element. It’s nice to see her here,” Pruitt said.
Albracht has chemotherapy treatment every other Monday. On the days she is unable to patrol campus, she works from home updating the annual security report, maintaining the Campus Security website and patrolling Facebook to invite students to join the Campus Security Facebook page. Members of the Belmont community also have supported her with meals, hospital visits and cards. Lipscomb University and an independent instructor have taken over Albracht’s Rape Aggression Defense courses, a program of realistic self-
“I’ve always said it is like a family here. People genuinely care about each other. We take care of each other,” said Albracht, also a 2000 alumna who studied religion and youth ministry.“As Belmont grows, how do we keep our family values? It’s hiring the same kind of people with values and nurturing the students.”
Assisting Albracht with her biweekly chemotherapy sessions is Belmont alumna Lauren Whitworth (’10), a nurse at Tennessee Oncology at Baptist Hospital.
“She looked really familiar, so I asked her where she worked. I instantly remembered she had done a convocation on campus safety. That was something that has stuck with me: to always be aware of your surroundings,” Whitworth said. “I love being with Renee. I learn from her just seeing her go through treatment.”
Whitworth said Belmont is passing its values and sense of community on to students, as Albracht wishes.
“Belmont nursing program instructors really instilled it in us to take care of your patients first,” she said. “Caring is what truly matters.”