DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Sixteen-year-old Sherry Ross woke up one morning to swollen ankles. The Greensboro teenage didn't pay much attention to them, until the next day when she had puffy eyes.
Her parents figured it was likely an allergic reaction. After a series of tests, the Ross family learned of Sherry's condition. The diagnosis: Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; a rare disease that attacks the kidneys and can lead to failure.
During a span of six years, Ross was on dialysis treatment and underwent two kidney transplants. The first one lasted only 48 hours. Her second transplant came in December 2011; the same time she applied to North Carolina Central University's law school.
"By the time I got to my second semester in my first year, I went through another set of rejection with the second transplant," Sherry said.
The now 29-year-old said she has spent "about 80 percent" of her life since the diagnosis in a hospital. "Sometimes treatment would be three times a week. Sometimes it would be four times a week," she said.
Battling kidney issues along with an abundance of homework became more than Sherry could bear.
"Me being me," she recalled. "I decided to stay in school and push through it. But I ended up with a 1.73 GPA which was not enough to (stay enrolled). So I got academically dismissed."
Sherry fought back and was given a second chance to re-enroll.
"Some days I would call my mom," she admitted. "I would be like 'Mama, this is for not for me.'"
Fast forward six years and Sherry has earned her Juris Doctor. "I think my purpose here is to show other people to not let your disease conquer you. And any time somebody tells you no, you got to keep on pushing."
Her mother, Leslie, along with her grandfather, great uncle, and other family members filled the stands Friday at NCCU's McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium for the commencement ceremony for professional students.
"It's a miracle," Leslie said. "A couple of years ago we didn't think we'd get this far. But by the grace of God, we're here."
Sherry's grandmother passed away in 2016. Let the family tell it, grandmother's voice would have bounced off the walls of the gym in love and support of Sherry.
"It took a village to get her here. We've done our job and proud of what we accomplished," Leslie said.
What's next? "What I want to happen next is (for Sherry) to get a job," Leslie laughed.
Sherry plans to take the bar exam in July and is looking for jobs across the country.
"We don't know what this trail is going to bring," said great-uncle Jefferson Davis Herring. "But at least she's met all the challenges. We're very happy. We're here to celebrate."