LEROY | Andy Heck conquered leukemia and battled a life-threatening lung disease.
So graduating from high school was just another goal on the 20-year-old Leroy resident's list.
Heck donned his red gown June 7 and walked across the stage with fellow Crown Point High School graduates at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.
"I'm just so thankful and blessed he's made it through everything," said Cheryl Campbell, Heck's mother. "He's just so strong, and he does what he has to do."
Attending school presented some challenges. At times he was home-schooled. When his health improved, he attended alternative school.
But then, he's accustomed to adversity.
Heck was diagnosed with leukemia at 5 years old.
He received a stem cell transplant to treat the disease, and the cancer went into remission.
In 2007, Heck struggled with bronchiolitis obliterans, which at the time left him with 8 percent lung capacity.
He was placed on a lung transplant list that year and eventually had surgery in late 2007 at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Since Heck's transplant, his lung capacity has improved to about 70 percent, Campbell said.
Heck returns to St. Louis every six months for checkups. The bronchiolitis obliterans hasn't returned since the transplant.
He weighed 57 pounds before his transplant. With a major boost in lung capacity, Heck's weight increased to 123 pounds, he said.
"Definitely making up for lost time," Campbell said.
The high school graduate is now preparing for college.
He plans to attend Ivy Tech Community College in the fall. He eventually would like to attend law school at Valparaiso University.
Heck credits his large family for helping him through his life.
"They've been there for me since I was 5 and had leukemia," Heck said. "I think having a close family is the best when you're going through a hard time."
He keeps his accomplishments in perspective.
"I'm proud of myself, but I always know there's a kid out there that's probably got it worse or had it worse," Heck said, "They're kind of, I guess, my inspiration, and hopefully they get through everything, too."