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A Graduation Speech

By Gabriela Ramos

When writing this speech, I couldn’t think of the right words. I knew what I wanted to say but didn’t know how to say it. It’s hard to believe that our high school years have ended. It seems like we were starting our first year of high school not too long ago, and now we are graduating seniors. The past four years have been very unusual. But we did it. We made it. This year was especially my favorite. These weren’t your typical high school days; instead, it was a journey.

On October 6, 2021, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma cancer. My tumor was located near my heart. It was heard not only to miss 6 ½ months of school, but it was even harder not being able to make those last memories I wanted to make. You may think that I’m up here to tell you that life is too short. It is, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, I’m here to tell you my story, and how I made it mine.

When I first got diagnosed, I wondered what I did and why this happened to me during my senior year of high school. No one should ever have to go through the things I went through. No one should ever experience the pain and suffering I felt. People would ask me how I could be so positive, and here’s the answer: Strength. I knew I had to be strong for myself and my family. I wouldn’t let cancer win, so I fought back even harder.

My doctor told me that I would have six cycles of chemotherapy, but that didn’t happen. My body was a fast responder, meaning it was reacting well to the chemo and doing its job to get rid of the tumor. So instead of doing six cycles, I made it with only five. I also went through 14 days of radiation. I may have been weak on the outside while the cancer was kicking me down, but I was fighting with everything I had on the inside.

Being 17 and dealing with so much was very stressful. There were times when I would have my highs and lows, good days and bad days. One of the hardest things to go through was losing my hair, but guess what? It’s growing back. Within three days of my first chemo, it started falling out. But through everything, I learned that I am strong, and that nothing can stop me from being the person I was destined to be. I learned how to know who my real friends and family are. Through every obstacle and challenge I faced, I won. I am prouder of myself than I ever have been before. Cancer may have taken away homecoming and mini-THON, but I didn’t let it take away prom and graduation. I fought my battle for 155 days and on March 9, 2022, I rang the bell and was officially cancer free.

There are times in all our lives where we must face challenges, and this was mine. Cancer has changed my perspective, and now I view life differently.

Our lives are like a story. That story is filled with unpredictable things, and the only way to know what happens next is to keep on reading. There was a time during my treatment when I didn’t know what my future held. I didn’t know if I was going to graduate from high school go to college or even be able to do anything. But I kept on going, and now I have my whole future ahead of me.

As I say these words, listen. I want you to take whatever challenges are in front of you and face them. Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to with your life. Find out what comes next in the story.

Before I close out this speech, I would like to thank a couple of people. To my family, especially my mom and grandma; my friends, and most importantly, my best friends Sierra Baker and Heather Sheaffer; my doctors, nurses and everyone at the hospital; my teachers and staff, thank you to everyone for everything you did for me through my time of need, whether it was a gift, a ‘thinking of you’ card or a phone call. I appreciate everything you have done for my family and me. Because of you, I am here today.

Congratulations to the MASH Class of 2022. We did it. I can’t wait to see how our story unfolds.

Thank you.

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