Graduating high school was a momentous occasion for more than the usual reasons for one Cosby High School senior.

For the last year-and-a-half, Kiersten Thompson had to put high school on the back burner. Doctors diagnosed her with Cordoma, a rare form of bone cancer during the middle of her junior year.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Danielle Weatherby, Kiersten’s mother.

The cancer forced Kiersten to miss nearly a year-and-a-half of school.

“To think that I’ve gone through all of this and still managed to graduate on time,” Thompson said.

On Saturday she received her diploma alongside her best friend and the class valedictorian, Emily Edmonds.

“Through this whole thing she’s just been so positive. There’s never been a moment where she’s wanted to give up,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds decided to use her valedictorian speech to acknowledge her friend’s courage. As she spoke to her peers on graduation day, Edmonds surprised the crowd by removing her cords and handing them to Thompson.

“To me the cords represented my hard work for my DE classes, but they represented her hard work to live. She didn’t have the opportunity to do what I did because she was fighting for her life,” Edmonds said.

Thompson was on track to receive the same cords, but her cancer got in the way. She said her friend's kindness meant a lot.

“That is something I will cherish forever,” Thompson said.

“Kiersten’s entire class, all of her peers have been great they’ve been so supportive, just the love pouring out by the entire community,” Weatherby said.

The girls are now heading in different directions. Emily will be off to college come fall and this summer, Kiersten will go to Boston for specialized therapy to keep fighting the cancer.

The two say they’re not worried about their friendship.

“Friends like Emily,” Thompson said, “they last a lifetime.”