MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – After spending a year away from the University of Hartford while she underwent chemotherapy for bone cancer, Mount Vernon resident Lashuana Cole is getting ready for her senior year in college.
Hospital beds and doctors are nothing new to Cole, who has suffered from retinoblastoma – which impaired her vision – since she was three years old. After being diagnosed with bone cancer last year, Cole was forced to forgo her senior year for treatment.
Nine months later, the 21-year-old is poised and ready to graduate with a politics and government degree in May.
Despite all of the heath problems she has endured during her life, Cole said that she has managed to lead a relatively normal life. She spent the summer working as an intern under New York State Sen. Ruth Hassel-Thompson and will return to Hartford's campus next week.
“I don’t have all of my vision, which is something that affects me everyday. Looking and reading is a bit harder for me, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do,” Cole said. “I go to school out of state, do my work, whatever I have to do. The only reason I’m not graduating on time is because I got sick. I don’t let it hold me back.”
Cole was diagnosed with bone cancer in her nose last year, and promptly began undergoing chemotherapy in November. She still has monthly doctor appointments and scans, but says that the cancer hasn’t resurfaced since.
The aspiring corporate lawyer – she plans to take the Law School Admission Test and attend law school after graduating – said that the cancer diagnosis opened her eyes and made her strive to make the most of her time in college.
“Before I got sick and had to take the time off, I wasn’t putting in all the effort. I didn’t take it as seriously as I could have been,” she added. “Taking the whole year off made me really want to get back into school and do better than how I was doing.
The college senior adds that she hasn’t been alone in her various battles. She cited her family, upbringing and education as important factors that have helped her remain resolute in her fight.
Cole is an alum of the New York Institute for Special Education, which she attended from kindergarten through high school. The Institute is designed for blind and visually impaired students, where they can learn life skills.
Donna Karlson, who has worked at the school for 40 years, said that even while she was in high school, Cole was prepared to persevere over her maladies.
“She’s tenacious, she doesn’t let anything get her down,” she said. “Most kids would get more introverted. She’s just focused on getting it done and over with and getting back to school. She’s got a good positive attitude. Everyone who meets her loves her.”
Despite all of the hurdles that she has faced in her life, Cole continues to do her best to put a positive spin on even the most negative circumstances.
“If everything that has happened changed my life in any way, it helped me realize that I’m happy that I’m able to get back to school,” she said. “I could have died, that should not be taken lightly. I’m going to do what I have to do.”