Cancer survivor chooses to see the bright side while graduating from UCA amid pandemic

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Madison Conklin was just getting settled into her sophomore year of college when she noticed a lump on her neck. It turned out to be Stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma. 

“No amount of anger or pity for myself is going to take away the cancer. So, it was kind of like, ‘this is the situation, now what do we do?'” said Conklin.

Madison fought it and won, and all while continuing to further her education. 

Now, she’s dealing with another unknown. She’s graduating college during the COVID-19 pandemic; no walking across the stage, no senior showcase. 

“I was upset for a couple of days, but this isn’t the first time,” said Conklin. “If anything, I’ve learned over the past four years you think you have control and you can plan everything down to the details, but that’s not necessarily how things are going to work out.”

But as with life, there are surprises around every corner. 

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Out of the blue, Madison’s mother asked her to come back home to Memphis to eat lunch with her.

“My mom asked me to get my cap and gown, so she could take pictures. I was out front and the next thing I know there’s like a trail of cars that come down the hill honking and have signs,” said Conklin.

A surprise graduation parade of Madison’s friends and family drove through her neighborhood to celebrate her newest achievement.

“It left me pretty speechless. I genuinely didn’t know what to say.”

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Madison has been cancer-free for two years now.

She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas this week with an art degree specializing in graphic design.