by David Maas
MAPLE PARKâ€”After being diagnosed with cancer, dealing with unemployment, going through a divorce, and later relocating from Georgia, Maple Park resident Leah Bobbitt knows what it is like to go through many hardships.
â€œWhen I found the lump through a self-breast exam, I knew in my gut that something was not right,â€ Bobbitt said, â€œMy gut told me what I was about to have diagnosed. I felt numb; I just didn’t know how I was going to tell my Mom that I had cancer. I was at a very busy time in my life.â€
Bobbitt was 28 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having both breasts removed, she found out the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes.
â€œThey took a cancerous tissue sample, and sent it to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion,â€ Bobbitt said, â€œIt came back that I actually had two different cancers in my breast.â€
Bobbitt was then diagnosed with Stage IIA breast cancer, which would require chemotherapy to kill any residual cells that may have spread.
â€œMy journey had just begun,â€ said Bobbitt, â€œThe cancer out of my body was the easy part. The nine surgeries, four-and-a-half months of chemo, and tissue expanders for over six monthsâ€”that was the most trying and painful part.â€
Bobbitt, going through a divorce, then relocated to Illinois, giving up her job as a nail technician in Georgia.
â€œIt was challenging; I had no job,â€ Bobbitt said. â€œI wanted to make sure my daughter had a relationship with her father, so I gave up my clientele, rented a townhouse sight unseen, and moved up here.â€
That is when Bobbitt found Everest College. She had always been steered toward the medical industry and found she could change her career after an accelerated two-year program, which is completed in nine months. While in the program, she was also a Student Ambassador, a leadership program exceptional students may apply for.
â€œAs part of the program, I was responsible for showing leadership,â€ said Bobbitt, â€œI tutored students and helped in class wherever I could. Our duty was to help whoever we could.â€
Bobbitt is now working as a traveling phlebotomist, doing wellness check-ups for companies and their employees.
To recognize Bobbitt for all that she has overcome, Everest College has chosen to give Bobbitt the 2010 Dream Award, which is given to a graduate who has completed a post-secondary education while overcoming great challenges.
â€œLeah is truly deserving of this award and is an inspiration to all of her teachers, classmates and Everest staff,â€ said Robert Van Elsen, president of Everestâ€™s North Aurora campus. â€œThough she faced many hardships, we are very proud of her for finding a way to succeed. We congratulate her on winning this award and wish her continued success in fulfilling her education and career goals.â€
â€œI just feel that I’ve done what I’ve done because that’s who I am,â€ Bobbitt said, â€œBut I am humbled that the staff, administrators and teachers have bestowed this honor on me.â€
Along with the award, Bobbitt will receive a $2,500 scholarship to pursue an advanced program at Everest.
Bobbitt continues to be involved with various breast cancer organizations, working to raise awareness.
â€œI wear pink every October, loud and proud, because people need to know that cancer doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, where you are in your life, or what your plans are,â€ Bobbitt said.