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Emily Beazley Lands Dream Job After Sharing Honorary Degree

 Emily Beazley, 12, of Mount Greenwood was given an opportunity to work as an oncology nurse on Monday at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. She did so after sharing an honorary degree with one of her doctors, Dr. Jason Canner.
Emily Beazley, 12, of Mount Greenwood was given an opportunity to work as an oncology nurse on Monday at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. She did so after sharing an honorary degree with one of her doctors, Dr. Jason Canner.
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DNAinfo/Advocate Childen's Hospital

MOUNT GREENWOOD — It didn't take Emily Beazley long to land her dream job.

The 12-year-old girl from Mount Greenwood was awarded an honorary doctorate from Saint Xavier University on Saturday.

By Monday morning, she was asked to come to work in the pediatric oncology unit at Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn. She fittingly wore purple and green scrubs.

Dr. Jason Canner, one of the team of doctors working with Emily and her family, was largely responsible for the new hire. Canner also delivered the commencement address on Saturday at Saint Xavier's School of Education and School of Nursing.

He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the university at 3700 W. 103rd St. in Mount Greenwood as part of the ceremony. The head of the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at the nearby hospital opted to share the degree with his patient.

"Today, this honorary degree is for Emily Beazley," Canner said during his speech. "It recognizes her lifelong knowledge and desire to push through the unknown."

Howard Ludwig says Emily has raised awareness about her disease:

Emily Beazley has been battling Stage III T-Cell Lymphoblastic Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma since April 7, 2011. At this point, Emily's diagnosis is grim.

She is receiving hospice care after oncologists discontinued chemotherapy earlier this month. The chemo treatments are no longer working, and other therapy options have largely been exhausted.

"She has earned the degree. She deserves it," said Canner, receiving a standing ovation for his graduation speech that brought many in the audience of 3,000 to tears.

Canner was asked to speak to the graduates for both his work at the hospital as well as his philanthropic efforts. He founded The Cure It Foundation in November 2011.

The non-profit group raises money to fund research aimed at pediatric cancer as well as offer help to South Side families — like the Beazleys — who are coping with the disease.

Saint Xavier has worked in partnership with The Cure It Foundation, hosting the organization's Fire Up A Cure fundraiser on its Mount Greenwood campus since 2011.

The foundation's signature event returns this year from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on July 25. It pits various fire departments from across Illinois against each other in competitions that include a fire truck pull, hot wing-eating contest, an obstacle course and more.

The event raised $60,000 last year, the bulk of which was used to fund the Children's Oncology Group. This global organization gathers the top doctors in the field to collaborate on successful therapies with the hope of finding a cure to pediatric cancer, Canner said.

"I work with a lot of families and their No. 1 request is, 'Hey, we have to cure this disease,'" Canner said.

Emily is one of the many young cancer patients who have served as team captains in the Fire Up A Cure competition. This reflects another facet of Canner's foundation — raising awareness of pediatric cancer.

To that end, the green and purple ribbons and lights that have become synonymous with Emily's battle against cancer have done more to enlighten parents and children about the struggles of this often deadly disease than anyone might have imagined, Canner said.

What began as friends and neighbors tying bows around trees on Emily's block in the colors associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma soon evolved into the Light It Up for Emily campaign.

Homeowners in the 19th Ward quickly got on board, using purple and green lights to illuminate their front porches, trees and bushes in a show of support. Downtown skyscrapers and other iconic Chicago buildings including Soldier Field and the Willis Tower soon joined the effort.

Pictures of ribbons and lights have surfaced on social media from across the globe as word of Emily's resolve has spread online. It's through this same medium that many came to know the little girl with a gapped-tooth smile and her struggle.

Emily's mother, Nadia Beazley, has used Facebook to bravely share her daughter's story — both the triumphs and the setbacks. The online updates have been equal parts gut-wrenching and uplifting.

"Emily Beazley has raised awareness in the city of Chicago, Illinois and even further," Canner said on Tuesday.

He hopes this increased awareness as well as his own efforts with The Cure It Foundation leads to improved funding and better treatment for children suffering with cancer.

Indeed, mortality rates have improved dramatically in the past 50 years for kids diagnosed with pediatric cancer. In fact, four out of five children diagnosed with cancer are cured, Canner said.

But that leaves plenty of room for improvement. Canner believes this will be achieved through greater collaboration as well as increased funding.

Indeed, the pediatrician and oncologist said there are cancer drugs for adults that never make it to the pediatric testing level because they aren't profitable for the companies that manufacture them.

He also pointed to several clinical trials that are offered to adult cancer sufferers but not children.

It's only through these efforts that Canner believes that cancer will be wiped out among children. And while this might not be the best career option, Canner said he'd gladly find a new job.

"I would love not to have to work anymore," he said.

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