Fresno Pacific student graduates after extreme adversity

FRESNO, Calif.

The graduation ceremony around 6 p.m. on Saturday. Romie Gonzalez delivered the invocation. She also received her bachelor's degree -- something she promised to her father just before he died.

For more than a decade, 40-year-old Romie Gonzalez desperately wanted to graduate from Fresno Pacific University. "It's taken me 15 years."

In 1996 Romie's father, Jose Hernandez died. But not before a major request for Romie -- the oldest of five daughters.

"My dad's words, always saying 'I don't want you guys to be out in the fields, like I was and like your mom was,'" said Romie Gonzalez, "I made him a promise that I would take care of my mom and my sisters."

For years Romie worked to help her four younger sisters get their college education through Fresno State. And every time Romie tried to get back on campus, tragedy would strike. "Every five years, that's when something in my life happened -- something big, bad. First was my dad's death."

Romie would eventually develop breast cancer. After surgery and many rounds of chemotherapy, she went into remission. But, she said, her marriage didn't survive the cancer fight.

"And then after that I got brain cancer, which was August 2011." And once again Romie had to step away from school. She said brain surgery and 20 rounds of radiation have given her a clean bill of heath.

And if that weren't enough, this past March, Romie's ex-husband, Octavio -- who had remained friends with her -- died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. "It was hard, there were times that it was very, very hard for me."

She is at peace with all of that -- especially now that she's in her cap and gown. Romie acknowledges her family and classmates that have helped her through what could have easily destroyed her dreams. "I never lost my hope and I never lost my faith, and that's what got me through."

Romie is graduating with a business degree. She's hoping to open a recreation center for cancer patients.

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