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Graduation services held for Mich. girl as she loses battle with cancer

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WWMT) -- 17-year-old Yeatise Gaines died last week after a long battle with cancer. But before passing away, the Kalamazoo Central High School senior was given her own graduation ceremony in her hospital bed.

The special graduation took place at Bronson Hospital. The family says it was her life-long goal to graduate high school, and that's what kept her going.

Yeatise started battling cancer when she was just two years old.

"It attacked her muscles and her bones, so she had a lot of surgeries with bones deteriorating and everything, so it was really hard for her entire life," said her sister Ava Gaines.

Ava says despite her sister's challenges, she kept up on her schoolwork, determined to finish high school.

"She was so strong; she was unbelievably strong. All the life experiences she went through, she always had a smile on her face, and she was able to make a joke," Ava said. "Just a great person."

The fight with cancer intensified, and Yeatise found herself in Bronson Hospital.

It soon became clear the 17-year-old wouldn't be able to make her June 4 graduation.

That's when the school district stepped up.

"When they came in with the cap and gown, it was so beautiful," said Yeatise's grandmother Linda Mann.

On May 14, friends, family, and school officials gathered at her bedside, giving her the graduation she'd been working for.

A cap and gown, diploma, and special pink tassle.

"I think Yeatise cried down inside; she was happy. Real happy on her last day," said Mann. "She knew what was going on because she told me, 'Granny, don't cry. Be strong.'"

Yeatise passed away the next day.

While they're missing her deeply, the family says they're grateful that her last moments were happy and fulfilled.

"It just touches my heart she got to do the one thing she wanted to do," Ava said.

Funeral services are planned for this weekend.

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