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Chesterfield woman's career in medicine on hold after cancer diagnosis

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Posted at 5:01 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-27 16:39:01-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Ever since she was knee high, Hallie Sommardahl has been standing tall.

“She handles things and takes everything in stride,” said father David Sommardahl.

Her parents, David and Michelle, said their model child excels in life. But what impresses them the most is her giving heart.

“She has always been a rule follower and done the right thing. Made good choices,” said Michelle.

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At Midlothian High School, the honor roll student yearned to help others.

“I was always hands on and I thought I could make the biggest impact in the healthcare field,” said Hallie.

Hallie would major in Public Health at The University of South Carolina.

“Overall it was an amazing experience and I learned so much and I had amazing professors,” said Hallie.

Hallie’s goal is to become an epidemiologist to study diseases. But during her senior year she battled two bouts of debilitating mono.

“I had fevers and fatigue and night sweats and it felt like I couldn’t kick it,” said Hallie.

Still on December 14, the 22-year-old would graduate ahead of most classmates, earning her degree in less than four years.

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“It truly was the best 3 1/2 years and I would do it all over if I could,” said Hallie.

Hallie was carving a career path. She was about to start a job at Patient First.

“It made the most sense and graduate early and get out into the world,” said Hallie.

But on December 30, two weeks after graduation, it was determined Hallie was battling something far worse than mono.

“So they called me right before New Years and told me they thought I had cancer,” said Hallie.

She was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma.

“It didn’t seem real. Didn’t think that with me being 22 that I would have cancer. Let alone stage 4,” said Hallie.

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“I just dropped to my knees and started sobbing. Couldn’t believe what he was saying. The last thing we thought it was going to be,” she added.

The young woman who dreamed of helping the sick became a patient herself.

“So just being able to accept it and start the treatment and work toward getting better has made it easier to process,” said Hallie.

Hallie began chemotherapy treatments almost immediately. One side effect was her hair started falling out.

“Its probably one of the worst parts of the whole thing,” said Hallie.

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Still, she is still thinking of others. Hallie recently shaved her head and donated her long hair to children battling cancer.

“It made me come to terms with my own diagnosis as well knowing that if I have to lose it at least it is helping someone else,” she explained.

Her career may be on hold but Hallie expects to make a full recovery.

"I am confident in it. I think I have a long future ahead and positive about the process,” said Hallie.

Mom and dad said don’t bet against her.

“She definitely gives us strength and inspiration as well like she is taking this with so much grace,” said David.

Hallie Sommerdahl says this experience - of being on the receiving end of treatment - will only strengthen her resolve.

“Hopefully a few years down the road I feel like I will be able to capitalize on how important health is and really continue to do what I can to help others,” said Hallie.

Hallie will receive chemo treatments for her Hodgkins lymphoma every other week through July. According to her parents Patient First says they will hold her job until she feels well enough to begin her career in medicine.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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