COLUMBUS, Ohio - Graduation signifies something different for each student.
For Karen Caver, her degree from Ohio Dominican University is a symbol of a personal resurrection.
“This is going to be an amazing journey,” she said with assurance.
Caver first enrolled into ODU inn 1986. She spent three years working toward her degree, until she found out devastating news.
“I found out my mom had cancer,” she explained. “She had pancreatic cancer. So, that was at the end of my junior year. Beginning of my senior year, I had some tough choices to make.”
Caver was three classes shy of graduating but decided to leave college and take care of her mother.
Caver worked around the country before finding out her own diagnosis and moving back to Columbus for treatment.
“Fast forward 15 years later, and found out I have cancer,” Caver shared. “And the first thing I wanted to do when I found out I had cancer — was finish the educational walk I started years ago.”
Caver was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer.
“So it went left lung, to right lung across my chest in the lymph nodes, up the esophagus and down the trachea,” she said. “At one point, my body within the first 18 months, was 60 percent cancer.”
Doctors gave her six months to live.
“They weren’t sure if I’d be able to speak again, write again,” Caver said.
She received her prognosis in September of 2015. Since then, she has outlived doctors’ expectation.
She said – instead of succumbing to her disease – she made a decision to live.
“First and foremost, I wasn't passing in 6 months,” she declared. “If I was going to pass, it was going to be on my terms. I would raise my son, I would enjoy my family and I would finish my degree. And literally in that order.”
Between treatments and recovery, Caver went back to school at ODU.
“I wanted my son to see how strong I was, and that even in the face of cancer you still live your life on your terms,” she said.
Caver says her faith held her through the tough times.
“I remember getting in the car and just clamping my hands and saying father you have got to hold my hand and he has. He has never let it go,” she said with a smile.
On Saturday, Caver walked across stage and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. She was cheered on by family and friends.