June is a big graduation month for many schools, but one of the more unique ceremonies this season has been at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, where a special group of pediatric cancer survivors were honored for graduating high school.
It is the eighth year that the Manhattan cancer hospital held its special high school graduation for former cancer patients. Thirty teenagers who battled various forms of the disease stood proud in their caps and gowns, each of them with their own fascinating story of courage and resilience.
Emily Lang, from South Carolina, was one of them. The 18-year-old was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, at just 5 years old. At 10, she developed secondary leukemia, and struggled with a liver infection, a blood clot in her shoulder, fluid in her heart, and kidney stones, all at the same time. Despite her difficult past, she was able to overcome everything and get her high school diploma. However, this is not the end. She will be on her way to college shortly to study marine biology.
“Everything combined was working against me, from graduating on time, graduating with people my age. I had struggled trying to live, trying to survive, trying to get to the next grade, the next day, and the next hour" Lang told the New York Daily News.
Former teacher, Ross Cohen, was elated to see some of his students. He remembered when they were just kids, he said, and now they are all grown up and healthy. “They were 7 or 8 years old, and now they have scrappy beards and are going on to college, talking about their majors and their life pursuits,” Cohen said. “It’s amazing.”