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Oak Harbor student graduates on time despite a health scare

  • Joanna
  • September 29, 2021

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Billy moved a lot during her high school years. By her senior year, she’d been to four different high schools.

Keeping up with coursework was difficult when she changed schools so often. Her cancer diagnosis made it feel impossible.

“I was doing coursework packets in various places — from hospital beds and many, many different houses,” Billy said.

For the first few months of her diagnosis, her doctors were unsure of whether she had thyroid cancer or lymphoma and offered two very different outlooks.

“For a while, I was told that I could either have an ‘okay time’ and get past this or that I would only have so long to be here,” Billy said.

If she was diagnosed with lymphoma, Billy planned to drop out of school so she could check off some bucket list items, spend time with family, reconnect with old friends, and tie up loose ends. But if it was thyroid cancer, she’d stay on top of school and plan for a bright future.

After four months of testing, Billy was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This diagnosis motivated her to continue her studies, and she got back on track to graduation with help from Graduation Alliance.

“I often finished courses in the middle of the night. I started at 10:30 p.m. and closed my laptop at 8 a.m. in the comfort of my bed,” Billy said. “I was trying to soak up any knowledge that I possibly could because I worked during the day. I needed to find space for school, and nighttime was the only space I had.”

Though she is still battling cancer, Billy graduated on time and is looking forward to attending college this fall to become a high school history teacher. She isn’t letting her diagnosis defeat her and is currently working as a caregiver to build the life she wants.

“I’m feeling like this is my life now, and I get to do what I want with it,” Billy said. “I’m going to go to college. I’m ready to get my own apartment. I just got a car. I’m ready for life!”