UW-L awards extraordinary graduate - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

UW-L awards extraordinary graduate to terminally ill student

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Putting on the cap and gown is the culmination of years of class studying and exams, but for Kimberly Graham the road to graduation involved much more.

"I got diagnosed with cancer senior year of high school," Kimberly said. "I still was able to do online class through all of my cancer treatments and I was able to come to La Crosse after I finished."

But challenges didn't end there. Kimberly's cancer, a childhood cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma, returned twice during college, most recently in the summer of 2012.

"She has cancer free for 18 months until last August 17, she was diagnosed for a third time with a tumor on her lung," said Dawn Graham, Kimberly's mom.

"Not knowing during my chemo treatments if I was gonna make it to the next day or the next week, it was hard to make the decision do I really wanna study or do I wanna just rest?" Kimberly said. "But I really really wanted to earn a degree."

Kimberly once again balanced treatments, surgery and classes in the radiation therapy program, on track to graduate in the summer of 2014.

"Once I decided I wanted to do radiation therapy that especially drove me, just because I understand how those patients feel," Kimberly said.

Then, news last Friday, in the middle of finals, that Kimberly's cancer is terminal.

"The doctor told her that Kimberly, whatever she wanted to do, she better do as soon as possible," Dawn said.

Word of Kimberly's diagnosis spread and the UW-L decided to award her that degree. She is the recipient of the extraordinary degree.

"To shake her hand, give her a degree, see what that mean to her family, and know that they'll remember that forever, is really something," said UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow.

"We don't have a lot of time right now with Kimberly so we are just thrilled she finally has reached her goal and accomplished this and earned her degree," Dawn said.

"She's Kim-wonderful. She's Kim-possible," said Gary Graham, Kimberly's dad. "She has done the impossible."

Kimberly is now UW-L graduate; an eagle who exemplifies strength, courage and that word printed on her degree- extraordinary.

"Through all of my treatments I really worked hard to get my classes in," Kimberly said. "So it really means a lot that I can finally say that I graduated from college."

To learn more about Ewing's Sarcoma and join in the fight against childhood cancers, you can click here.

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