KENT- As many students wrap up school for Christmas break, others are wrapping up for good with winter graduation.
Kent State will hold their winter commencement ceremonies Saturday, December 19th and for one student, it means more than just earning a degree.
It's a special time in every student's life, but extra special if you were once told that life was supposed to end before this day even arrived.
Gina Cortese went to Kent State bright eyed and optimistic, wanting nothing more than to enjoy her time in college, before setting out into the world as a teacher.
During her second semester of junior year, Gina began feeling a numbness in her left toe.
After brushing it off, the numbness eventually moved its way up her leg and arm.
"The left side of my body just kind of gave out, so I kind of fell over," Gina said when remembering the incident. "I was like, okay, something is seriously wrong."
It was worse than she could have imagined. Gina had a brain tumor which turned out to be an extremely rare, giant cell glioblastoma.
However, she didn't want to know what she had or the odds of beating it. She knew that no disease would decide her fate.
"I just didn't want to know, because I knew that if I knew anything, I might not be as positive as I was," she said.
"She didn't want people to feel sorry for her," Gina's mother Sheila said. "She wanted to move on and get on with her life and do the things that she wanted to do."
The operation and treatment left Gina paralyzed on one side, forcing her to relearn to walk and talk.
She was cancer free for 8 months, when an MRI revealed that it was back and she'd have to go through the whole thing again.
She decided to go through hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment at University Hospitals and has been cancer free ever since.
Now, 6 years in the making, Gina will finally graduate from college. She's hoping to dedicate her life to working with cancer patients and started a charity that collects hats for chemo patients, Gina's Journey.
It's been a long battle but through it all, she fought with a smile. She knew all along, it was a battle she would win.
"Cancer has taught me so many amazing things that I would have never known if I hadn't gotten sick," she said. "For that, I wouldn't ever take it back. I have such a different perspective and view on life and I'm still here and I'm doing great."
If you'd like to learn more about Gina or help with her charity, you can visit her website.