Life changed by a brain tumor, Ole Miss student recovers with ‘Are you ready?’ mantra

Seth Dickerson. Photo by Gray Houser
Seth Dickerson. Photo by Gray Houser.

Gray Houser
Oxford Stories

Spring break 2015. Seth Dickerson is lying on the floor of his bedroom. In six minutes, his body went numb, and the world around him grew dark. He thought he was dying.

Dickerson did die that night. Twice.

Little did he know, he had a brain tumor since birth, and in the intervening years, it had developed into a golf ball size aneurysm.

That warm spring night, it decided to pop.

“I could feel the pop,” he said. “I remember being terrified, thinking that I was going to die on the same floor that I had played on as a child.”

Just a few months earlier, Dickerson had started classes at the University of Mississippi as a member of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. He loved his school, but not always.

Dickerson and his family had been Mississippi State fans for years, but he was drawn to Lott because he wanted to study policy and make a difference in his state and country. For now, he lied in a comatose state in a hospital hundreds of miles away from the Grove at Ole Miss that he loved so much.

When he awoke, he couldn’t talk, or read and write. He had also been forced to withdraw from the university. He was devastated, but determined.

Dickerson recovered with miraculous speed. It usually takes months for patients in Dickerson’s condition to relearn how to talk. It took Dickerson just three weeks. His mantra became “Are you ready?”

Dickerson his answer after every step he took when relearning to walk was: “Hell yeah,” with one foot and “Damn right” with the other.

Dickerson has a very simple formula for living, “God, family, work,” in that order. He has been a Christian his whole life and said his faith was strengthened by his health issues. Having an aneurysm and recovering in less than a year made his faith real.

Dickerson’s mother, Teresa Dickerson, agreed saying it “rocked my faith to my core both ways. I knew there was a heaven, and that Jesus died on the cross, but this was the period at the end of the sentence.”

Dickerson said he was lying in his hospital bed when he had an epiphany. He said, rather than feeling sorry for himself, he realized just like he was trapped by his medical condition, others were trapped in a greater way by issues like poverty.

Dickerson said he could “talk the rhetoric” before this, but it had become real to him. He knew now, more than ever before, he wanted to help lift people out of their circumstances through policy.

He recalled sitting among other patients, some of whom couldn’t even talk, but that those who could weren’t talking about recovery. They were worrying about how they were going to pay their medical bills.

The Grove. Photo by Gray Houser.

Dickerson credits his recovery in part to his Ole Miss family, who pushed him every day to answer, “Hell yeah! Damn right!” and to come back to Oxford, which he did in January 2016.

Dickerson graduated as a member of the Honors College on time with his class. He said his mentor, a UM professor, called him and said, “It’s going to be hard to walk across the Grove on game day if you can’t walk.”

Dickerson said that that was all the motivation he needed. After graduation, he was asked to give the keynote address at his commencement. Dickerson said he was honored to “bookend this chapter of [his] class’ lives.” He is now studying law at Ole Miss, the school he loves so much.

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