“I would be lying if I said that cancer didn’t impact my life, because it makes me who I am today,” Kerri Donnelly, a recent North Port graduate once said.

People say life isn’t fair or that everything happens for a reason. But, during difficult situations, you always ask yourself, why it had to be you, or why you had to be the one to go through it. She described her childhood as good, filled with a loving family, and great memories to cherish. On Sept. 7, 2007, Donnelly was given the news that changed her life, “You have cancer.”

She was 15 years old when diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She admits, “I was in so much shock because I went to the doctor’s appoint for a checkup and they found the lump in my neck.”

She recalls her experiences of how family members would try to explain to her what everything meant, and how she refused to listen to the heart-breaking news. Soon after, Donnelly prepared to fight a strong fight, undergoing three types of chemotherapy and a tune up chemo treatment eight days later, for a duration of three months. She went through five surgeries, while dealing with the common side effects from the chemo treatment, which included nausea, mouth sores, back and leg pains, and “the taste of metal every time I ate.”

She also needed shots in her arm to help build up her white cells after receiving treatment. While most celebrate their sweet 16 with parties and hanging with friends, Donnelly began to fear the inevitable, when she started losing her hair on her birthday. She later shaved it off on Thanksgiving.

“I was scared. I wondered what people were going to think about me when I lost my hair, and how people would act towards me. I feared that cancer would win,” she said.

Donnelly admitted that she and her father were never that close, but the fight against cancer, helped pull them together. “He was there when I needed a shoulder to cry on,” she said. “And he would tell me, ‘Kerri I’m so proud of you’ and ‘bald is beautiful, don’t ever forget that.’”

She admits many people have supported her throughout her battle with cancer, but her family and boyfriend AJ Mazzone, helped her a lot during the difficult times. Despite the challenges of battling cancer, Donnelly learned the importance of a positive attitude and outlook on life.

“Because of this [experience], I realized not to take things for granted because you never know what life will throw at you. My battle through cancer made me a stronger person, helped build solid relationships, gave me determination to conquer and be successful,” she said. “I would be lying if I said I never think about my cancer coming back because it’s on my mind all the time. I feel like this fear will never go away. But I’m told that I have amazing people in my life, that if it does come back I know I won’t ever be alone.”

Editor’s Note: To this day, Donnelly had remained cancer-free and in remission for over two and half years. Kerri went through a process called egg hasting, a procedure that enabled her to receive nine eggs, allowing her the chance to have children in the future. She wants to thank everyone that donated and made it possible. Kerri graduated North Port High School in June 2010, and will be attending Hillsborough Community College in Tampa in the fall.