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Petoskey Native Graduates from Michigan State University After Overcoming Leukemia

It was a busy weekend as college students in Michigan celebrated graduation.

For new Michigan State University graduate Darby Walker, walking across the stage for spring commencement was a dream come true.

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastomic leukemia at the age of 16, she spent the better part of three years in Sparrow Hospital in East Lansing. After fighting and beating cancer, she owes most of her college experience to the MSU Oncology Team.

“It’s just so much farther in life than I ever thought I would get, compared to 16, when I just got diagnosed with cancer, I just felt like my life was over,” said Walker. “Everything changed and I just feel like I’m in such a happy spot right now and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come.”

Walker says the medical staff at Sparrow have become a part of her family. On Saturday, they surprised and congratulated Darby, one-by-one.

“Not only is she graduating from MSU, but she’s five years out for survival, which, that’s a big milestone for our kids—once they reach five years, the risk of relapse is very, very rare,” said Cheri Salazar, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Sparrow Health System.

Walker’s father Rick says he’s amazed at how far she has come.

“She’s just an inspiration to all of us,” said Walker. “I’m not sure that happens all that frequently and you can’t say thank you enough for saving someone’s life.”

While undergoing treatment, the Make-A-Wish foundation helped cover Walker’s first semester at MSU, and the college went on to offer her a full scholarship, helping her reach the goal of graduation.

Not long after becoming a Spartan, she entered remission.

“The life that you form when you are living in and out of a hospital is very different, these people become your best friends and you’re sort of like a sudo-family,” said Walker. “So, it’s amazing to see them, I’m so happy and grateful that they get to see me healthy and thriving and successful and it’s so great that I get to keep in touch with them, because I love them all so much.”

Walker is now looking forward to starting an internship at a media firm in Los Angeles.