GREENSBORO, N.C. — On Sunday, many mothers were celebrated.

One mom showed her children that no matter what is thrown at you in life, you can succeed.

WFMY News 2's, Amber Lake, spoke to a college graduate who didn’t let a diagnosis keep her from a degree.

A couple of days ago, some UNCG students walked across the stage to grab their diplomas.

Loading ...

Among the graduates, was 39-year-old Irene Richardson.

Back in 2015, Richardson was diagnosed with something called Neuromyelitis Optica which is a disease that impacts the nervous system and doesn’t have a cure.

“I was on a business trip, and I woke up and I couldn't move my arms from my legs. I use my voice recognition to call for help. The doctors, at first, thought that it was just fatigue and exhaustion, stress from working too many hours, working too hard," she explained. 

Credit: Irene Richardson
Irene Richardson receives chemotherapy agents and infusions to manager her Neuromyelitis Optica.

Richardson said she felt defeated and didn't know what her future would look like. The nurses that helped treat her inspired her, and it was that inspiration that drove Richardson to change careers. 

“I just wanted to follow in their footsteps and maybe be that change for someone else to help them through their difficult times; we will all go through something at some point. And I knew that having the right people on your side can make a huge difference,” Richardson said. 

In the middle of a pandemic, nursing shortage, and tough diagnosis, Richardson decided that since her nurses changed her life, she now wanted to change the life of someone else as a nurse.

"We've been watching what nurses are going through. And we want them to know that they inspired us. And we're coming to reinforce them and support them," she said. 

So Richardson took on the task of a full-time nursing student, all while being a full-time wife, and mom, working a full-time job and also dealing with a full-time disease that takes no days off.

From walking into Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to receive her diagnosis, to walking into the lab at Cone Health for work every day, and now walking across the stage at UNCG, grabbing the diploma that will help her help others.

Loading ...

"I just want people to realize that you can do, you can have the life that you dreamed of. Your diagnosis isn't a definition of you. You can do things - because of a - not in spite of disability.”

Richardson will start working in the emergency department at Duke hospital at the end of July.

She gets a chemotherapy agent and infusions every few months to manage her disease.