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Cancer survivor to pursue pediatric oncology career

By: Ora Nelson

Many in Covington County know Kennedy Cleghorn as a 2014 Cancer Freeze recipient and now a two-time cancer survivor.

Cleghorn has taken the next step in her life in dedicating her career to others that are battling cancer like she once was.

Cleghorn finished her prerequisites at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College (LBW) and will be transferring to Troy University in the fall of 2020 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing, specializing in pediatric oncology.

Pediatric oncology wasn’t Cleghorn’s first choice when she started on her career path.

“My first choice was still in the medical field, Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), and I even went through the prerequisites for it,” said Cleghorn. “I didn’t get in [to the OTA program]. I felt lost.”

Cleghorn had decided to pursue a career in OTA in her junior year of high school.

“When I didn’t get in, I didn’t have a backup plan,” said Cleghorn. “People kept on telling me about nursing and I was going down the list [of nursing specializations] and saw pediatric oncology. And it hit me, like a self-realization: maybe this is why I didn’t get into OTA.”

Cleghorn was diagnosed with two different cancers (ovarian cancer in 2013 and soft tissue sarcoma in 2014) while she was in high school and went through multiple surgeries and treatments before she was declared in remission and later cancer-free in 2016.

“I was meant to use what I went through and survived to help patients who went through what I did,” said Cleghorn. “When you’re there [doing cancer treatments], especially if it’s your first time, it helps a lot to have someone that relates and can be with you through it.”

“Before going through that [being diagnosed and having cancer], I heard of people having cancer but I never understood what that did to a person,” admitted Cleghorn. “It changes a person’s perspective. It makes you thankful for the little things in life.”

Cleghorn said those “little things” could make a person’s day when they weren’t always available to someone going through cancer treatments.

“When going through chemo[therapy] treatment, they’d advise me to stay inside for a couple of days since they [the treatments] lowered my immune system,” said Cleghorn. “I remember those moments when I was able to go outside and feel the sun on my face. You finally start to appreciate the little things in life like that.”

Cleghorn hopes her story inspires others in their own lives.

“I want to inspire people,” said Cleghorn. “Everyone struggles—it might not be with cancer, but their problems are just as significant in their lives—and you have to take what life throws at you and make something positive out of it.”