High school student graduates while battling cancer

There are a lot of inspiring stories to be found among the nearly two hundred graduating seniors that recieved their diplomas from the Philadelphia Performing Arts High School Friday, but none more courageous than that one particular student.

18-year-old Tommy Sweeney spent his entire four year high school career battling Acute Lymphomatic Leukemia. 

"I think there are definitely people who did not think I could get here, but I definitely believed I could," Sweeney said.

Diagnosed back in 2015, the cancer discovery came as a shock to Tommy's mother, who knew her son to be a healthy kid.

"I was just beside myself," Debbie Reilly said. "My first question was, 'is my son gonna die?'"

Tommy spent his high school career in and out of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he received rounds of chemotherapy, total body radiation, blood transfusions, and spinal taps.

Tommy went through remission and relapse.

More recently a bi-lateral hip replacement caused Tommy to require a crutch, which accompanied him on the stage at the Kimmel Center for Friday's graduation ceremony.

Tommy found the courage to take on such a devastating illness and treatment by keeping his spirits high.

"I have joke about it," Sweeney said. "I like to say a lot that if you don't joke about it, you'll cry about it, so I chose to joke about it."

Tommy's missed plenty of classes while fighting cancer, and often taught himself along the way.

"It's not easy teaching yourself algebra -- it's definitely not easy," Sweeney said.

Then again, nothing has been easy for Tommy, but with his family and friends behind him, he has already beaten cancer twice. High school graduation is all about the future, but for Tommy the past is proof that he can do anything.

"I've already, I'm sure, come a lot farther than a lot of people thought. So I plan on showing them just how far I can get," Sweeney said.

Sweeney said he plans on taking business classes at Philadelphia Community College, and will transfer to a four-year school to focus on law or criminal justice.