UAFS grad conquers college and cancer

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"I almost cried, I got tears in my eyes, I just couldn’t believe that I was there," Lauren Luginbill said.

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFTA) — A cancer survivor crossed the stage at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith and exceeded all expectations, even her doctor’s.

At just six years old, Lauren Luginbill was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer.

Courtesy of Lauren Luginbill

“I was in a wheelchair, my head was cocked to one side, and I couldn’t talk for a while,” Lauren said.

Courtesy of Lauren Luginbill

Doctors told Lauren she would never be able to read or comprehend ever again, but Lauren proved them wrong — recently graduating from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS).

“I had two brain surgeries within a week of each other,” she said. “My second one they [doctors] thought I had a stroke afterward because I was paralyzed from the right side down.”

Despite her diagnosis, Lauren’s brain retained information.

Courtesy of Lauren Luginbill

After countless therapy sessions, Lauren found the strength to overcome.

She learned to write with her left hand and with time learned to walk again.

“When I walked through the doors onto the stage in the Stubblefield Center, I almost cried,” Lauren said. “I got tears in my eyes and I just couldn’t believe that I was there.”

Courtesy of Lauren Luginbill

Lauren’s mother, Martha, said her daughter’s diagnoses flipped her world upside down.

“It was a day I never thought I would see, and it was beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined,” she said.

Courtesy of Lauren Luginbill

Martha said seeing her daughter beat the odds and graduate from UAFS was one of the proudest moments of her life.

She’s the bravest, strongest, most determined person I know.

Martha Luginbill, Lauren’s mom

Lauren earned a Bachelor of Science with honors.

Courtesy of Lauren Luginbill

She plans to go to grad school to become a physical therapist, using her degree to give back to those who helped her overcome brain cancer.

“My therapist was so amazing to me and I want to get back to Saint Jude and provide that same experience for kids and be like, ‘I conquered this you can too,’” Lauren said.

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