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Second Chances

There’s a gentle curve to the right side of Erin Ehlinger’s head just above the temple. You don’t see it unless you look for it, and you don’t know to look for it unless you’re told.

Ehlinger might tell you about her ordeal that left titanium clips holding together pieces of her skull, but she’d rather not. She’d prefer to focus on her degree in special education, her joining 1,200 other students in this year’s commencement ceremony, her planned move to San Francisco, where her boyfriend lives, and her future teaching children with special needs.

It’s been a long trip from the day in 1998 when she learned she had a tumor pressing on the part of her brain that controls the left side of the body. It explained the lethargy she was experiencing, the headaches and nausea, the fact she had trouble holding onto things with her left hand. The memories are forced upon her every six months when she undergoes the MRI that scans her brain for signs of the tumor growing back.

So far, it hasn’t. The surgery in December 1998—along with the radiation, chemotherapy and the medications—appears to have been successful. Now, at age 24, she has a second chance. After enrolling in Xavier’s undergraduate education program in 2001, she completed her degree this spring. After all, she says, life is not as Socrates says—“To live in order to die.”

“I think the most important part is making connections with people here,” she says. “None of us knows for sure what’s out there.”

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