Positively Kentuckiana: Woman fights through cancer and now facing college


by WHAS11


Posted on September 3, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 3 at 6:14 PM

(WHAS11) -- Across America on Friday there are college freshman learning the ropes of life on their own.   

There's one college freshman here in Louisville who has hurdled huge obstacles to get to college.
After you meet her you will agree with WHAS11’s Melissa Swan she deserves the title of "Positively Kentuckiana."

“Tell me about the time you really thought you were in college?” Swan said.

“Definitely when my roommate first got here and the first day of classes,” Lisa Dempsey said.

Dempsey has stepped into a whole new world, college life.

The hills and halls of Bellarmine University are home to her now. 
She has half a dorm room with an extra high bed, a small desk and a stash of, perfect for the dorm, food.  All of which include peanut butter, Swiss Miss and Ramen noodles.

When I first met Lisa, she and her mom were walking into the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. That was three years ago. Several months after that Lisa was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

She showed me her surgery scar.
“You were telling me you've got screws,” Swan said. 

“Yeah, they're screws right here…they're pretty weird,” Dempsey said.
But the surgery and Chemotherapy failed to beat the brain tumor.

During her four year battle with Brain Cancer Lisa suffered severe headaches and overwhelming fatigue.
Lisa recently underwent cutting edge radiation that targeted just the tumor.

The tumor persisted until surgeons in Boston removed half of it. They declared the other half dormant.

“That means that right now it's not growing  ...it means it's probably not going to grow ever gain,” Dempsey said.

Through it all Lisa managed to keep up with her school work, maintain her grades and graduate from high school on time.

Dempsey said it was her support system that kept her going.

“Definitely my family, my church family, my family at home,” Dempsey said. “I couldn't have done it without a support system.”

That support system of family, friends and many members of Watkins United Methodist Church all held community wide yard sales to help pay Lisa’s medical bills.
Now on campus Lisa told Swan she has some memory problems and a few headaches but whenever that happens, she does what she’s always done, she keeps going.

“In order to do what I want to do in life I have to be here,” Dempsey said.

Lisa is studying to become a special education teacher.   
She got scholarships and grants from Bellarmine and others to pay for school.

Lisa must get brain scans every six months.

As you might imagine her family is deeply in debt from the medical bills.  The Boston surgery cost $100,000 and was not covered by insurance.  
But the crushing finances have not crushed their spirits.