POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. — Growing up, certain moments CAN leave a lasting impression. Vania Gross decided on a career in nursing while she was still in pigtails.

“We just do it because we love it. We will do anything for a stranger. Just as if they’re our family member,” Vania said. “I knew right away when I was five that I wanted to be a nurse.”

Recovering from open-heart surgery, the little girl noticed the nurses’ caring touch. Since then Vania has volunteered with the Rescue Squad as an EMT and helped new parents as a labor and deliver nurse at Johnston-Willis.

“When they call, we go,” Vania said. “I love it and I found my niche finally.”

Helping others is the Powhatan woman’s life’s work. But now, Vania has found herself a patient once again.

“My migraines started getting worse in September,” she said.

Seven weeks ago, the 27-year-old woman was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“The tumor is in my brain stem, so they can’t surgically remove it because the tentacles are growing into my brain stem,” she said.

Through rounds of chemo and radiation, she remains hopeful.

“I believe in miracles. I know medicine can only go so far,” she said. “They told me if this first round doesn’t work, there is nothing more than they can do. The life expectancy with someone with this type of brain cancer is two to three years if everything works.”

The illness has derailed her career, but this nurse at heart is still caring for others.

“There is no point in being depressed about what is happening,” she said. “I’m just trying to live life to the fullest.”

Vania is determined to help her high school sweetheart and husband Scott and their sons Austin and Colton.

“Her faith and mindset are what is keeping me from being in a darker place,” Scott confused. “But I’m doing OK because she is doing OK.”

Vania wants to raise enough money to pay off their remaining mortgage, so the burden doesn’t rest solely on Scott when she is gone.

“I just want them to be OK,” Vania said. “I know they’re going to be fine. There will be just an adjustment period.”

EMTs Rene Holy and Teresa Whitlock volunteered with Vania. The county’s first responders have now rallied around their friend.

“Vania is always thinking of others. She’s always there for everyone,” Rene said. “It’s time we’re there for her and her family.”

With her chemo and radiation treatment complete, Vania now waits and prays.

“I already have my memorial service planned out and typed out. So, if we need to use it, it is there. So, I feel better,” she said.

This life-long caretaker isn’t worried about herself. Vania Gross will keep her thoughts on others till the very end.

“It’s just who I am, I guess. It’s the nurse in me. I can’t turn it off,” she said. “You can’t turn off being a mom and being a nurse. It’s just what you do.”

A GoFundMe has been established to help Vania and her family.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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