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Childhood cancer journey inspires Pennsylvania woman to become a doctor

Bout with childhood cancer inspires Montgomery County student to study medicine
Bout with childhood cancer inspires Montgomery County student to study medicine 01:47

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A bout with childhood cancer has inspired a Montgomery County student to become a doctor.

Karli Meller is a second-year medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where being hands-on and really understanding patients is critical for her.

"I am somebody who will never downplay a patient's symptoms," Meller said.

That's what happened to her as a teenager, and a big diagnosis was missed, she said. 

"I knew something was wrong because I had never felt this level of excruciating pain before," Meller said.

At just 14, she was sick with a relentless pain in her chest, and doctors were stumped.

"I felt like if I didn't demand imaging, we would still be in this situation of trying to figure out what was wrong," her mom, Suzie Meller, said.

Karli Meller was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma — cancer of the lymph system.

Medical student Karli Meller works with a patient
Karli Meller works with a patient. CBS News Philadelphia

"It was such a hard experience to go through, but there were so many beautiful things that came out of it," Suzie Meller said.

Surrounded with love and support, Karli Meller said she went through chemotherapy and radiation, but didn't get really sick.

"I never really knew what I wanted to do. But after surviving this, I felt like that was my purpose of life and that I needed to help people in any way that I can," Karli Meller said.

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Now, she's aiming to become an oncologist.

"I just feel like Karli is going to make such a difference in the cancer world," Suzie Meller said. "So I'm so proud of her."

Karli Meller said her experience at PCOM and her own cancer journey will be guiding lights in her medical career.

"I think as a future physician … something that I am going to make sure that is really important is to listen to patients and to make sure that I'm as thorough as possible," she said.

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