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After being diagnosed with T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the winter of 2011, 17-year-old Kelly Walker of Windsor Township has pushed herself onward in her medical and physical struggles.
On Oct. 19, the Northeast Berks Chamber of Commerce breakfast mixer at the Keystone Villa at Fleetwood brought in several students to honor their courageous efforts in the region, and this included Walker receiving the Overcoming Adversity Award, given how hard she has worked to keep up her academic accomplishments while battling lymphoma.
Along with her plaque for the award, Walker also received a gift card for the book store at Kutztown University.
With Walker now in her senior year at Hamburg Area High School, her chemistry teacher, Jeffrey Wolf, wrote a kind and powerful set of words about her which helped her to earn the recognition from the chamber.
At the breakfast, Walker’s high school career counselor, Clare Benz, read what Wolf wrote to show all in attendance an illustration of what her teachers knew of her diligent efforts while fighting such a difficult disease.
Walker initially felt very weak after playing a basketball game in February of 2011 and eventually heard her diagnosis several weeks later.
After being homebound and having teachers visit her for handling her schoolwork and lessons, Walker came back to the high school in the remaining weeks of the last school year.
Doing summer academics to catch up over a period of two months, she returned at the start of this school year with her classmates.
Having originally been taking chemotherapy treatments on a weekly basis, she is now taking them only monthly until June 1 at the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg in Bethlehem.
As an avid appreciator of sports, Walker served as a manager in cross country, basketball and track and field in 2011. This year, she managed cross country and is hoping to try out basketball for herself again soon.
“I’ve always loved sports ever since I was young,” Walker beamed, as she pointed out that they’ve always come naturally to her and are a big part of her life.
Knowing she couldn’t participate in sports while under treatment and dealing with so much did take a toll on her, as she said she always wanted to be there at school, actively playing sports with her classmates.
She applied to five colleges and received acceptance to four so far, including Marywood, Slippery Rock, California and Alvernia universities; she’s waiting to hear her response from the last college, Lock Haven University, and plans to major in athletic training.
“There are so many people who take things for granted, and they don’t realize how good their life is compared to others,” Walker noted about what she has learned in the past two years. “But you just need to stay positive and be thankful for what you have.”
Walker noted that putting her energy into staying positive is a lot of how she kept her academics in good standing throughout taking her treatments, and it had a significant impact on her ability to thrive while dealing with such difficult circumstances at such a young age.
“Their support is unbelievable,” Walker said about her parents, brothers, two close cousins in Virginia and Georgia and also her friends. “They helped me throughout so much and to overcome so many obstacles.”