It's the day Madison Jarocha has been waiting for. But her short walk across the stage to get her bachelor's degree in nursing has been a long journey.
"When I was about 15 or 16, I ended up getting hospitalized and I was in and out of the hospital since I was like that age and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease," she said. "And so I went into nursing because I wanted to help people in the way that the nurses that I had helped me."
Nurses who cared for Madison through the highs and lows of battling acute systemic scleroderma, a rare illness that affects the skin and other organs. She was hospitalized nearly a dozen times, enduring multiple surgeries and chemo in high school. Then, in college, the Central Florida grad suffered more health setbacks, temporarily going blind, breaking her foot — and just last year she was diagnosed with cancer.
"I would be lying if I said it was easy," Madison said. "I kind of, sometimes, I portray it as being easy because I want to just keep a positive attitude, because the more I get in my head about it, I feel like it sets me back."
So Madison set her sights forward, determined to finish her studies.
Graduating on time — and looking for a job in oncology.
"Having patients that are going through something that I went through, I think it's going to help me be the best nurse that I can, and should be super compassionate and let them know that they can do it, even though it's hard sometimes like it's not like the light you see at the end of the tunnel. It is there."
Celebrating the pomp of her circumstance as she matriculates from patient to practitioner.