PSU news by
Penn State's student blog



Kayla Nakonechni: Life is Tough, But She’s Tougher

On the outside, Kayla Nakonechni is your typical Penn Stater. She camps at Nittanyville, studies biology, and danced in THON last year. On the inside, though, she’s fighting the battle of her life.

Kayla, who just finished up her junior year this May, started to notice something wrong in early March. What began as twitches and small movements soon turned into full-fledged seizures in just weeks. An MRI on March 19 revealed a growth on her parietal lobe and she was diagnosed with nocturnal seizures.

On April 24th, she had her first-ever tonic seizure at 7 a.m. which resulted in a change in medicine. She went an entire month without any problems. Throughout the summer months, though, things got worse.

As things got tougher, Kayla created a blog to keep her friends and family updated on her situation. She said, “It gets more important to me as my journey keeps continuing. I’m happy I decided to document it, kind of like a journal!” The blog is titled, “Life is tough, but I’m tougher.”

For weeks at a time, Kayla would suffer anywhere from five to nine seizures per day. It was by this time, at the end of July, that she learned she would not return to Penn State for the fall — the first semester of her senior year. She was scheduled for brain surgery on August 12 at Hershey Medical Center.

Kayla had a successful surgery in which they removed the growth in its entirety. The doctors claimed she was the most “chipper” patient they’d ever operated on. Just a few days later, the biopsy revealed something very unexpected — she was diagnosed with a stage 4 Astrocytoma.

Just six months after she stood on her feet fighting pediatric cancer, this Penn Stater is on the front lines of the battle.

She was able to go home in just four days time, and has since attended speech and occupational therapy. Soon she will start chemotherapy to ensure that the cancerous cells don’t come back.

Despite the fact that she won’t get the opportunity to camp out at Nittanyville this fall or vie for a THON captain position, Kayla remains positive. She mentioned an “outpouring” of support from not only family and friends, but people she’s never even met.

Kayla’s “team” of friends and family have said that her “attitude continues to be nothing short of incredible. That smile that we all know and love remains painted on her face.”

Whether she’s playing with her new puppy Gilly (named after her neurologist), rooting on her Phillies (as she fights the same fight as former player Darren Daulton), or talking about how much she loves THON, Kayla has become an inspiration for her friends, families, and followers (as they call themselves, #TeamKayla).

If you’d like to keep up with Kayla’s story, check out her blogtwitter, and Facebook page, which is approaching 2,000 likes.

Overall, she says, THON keeps her the most positive because –as she puts it — “I’ve seen the smiles and the hope.”

About the Author

Maddy Pryor

I'm a 2013 Penn State alum with a B. A. in Public Relations as well as minors in History and Communications Arts and Sciences. I am proudly from Neptune, NJ and talk about it at any opportunity possible. I love college basketball and am a big fan of Penn State Basketball, as well as their official student section, Nittany Nation. I'm a big supporter of Relay For Life of Penn State as well as THON and Coaches vs. Cancer.


More by Maddy

Coach Herb Hand Visits THON for the First Time

After football coach Herb Hand posted a Vine of his first view of THON, we just had to know what his thoughts were.

If You THON It, You Should Put A Ring On It

Club Croquet Wins THON’s Got Talent 2014


Penn State Hoops Gets Iced Up For NIT Title

A banner raising ceremony will commemorate the achievement prior to the team’s season opener on November 9 against North Florida.

Reports: Tony Carr To Begin Professional Career In Italy

Penn State Hockey’s Aarne Talvitie Showcases At Devils Development Camp

Penn State Hoops Releases 2018-19 Non-Conference Schedule

Forward Abdou Tsimbila Commits To Penn State Hoops

Student Life

Penn State Student Dies Of Allergic Reaction To Peanuts

Max McGlinchey had just finished his freshman year studying finance.

Freshman 101: On-Campus Life

Student Farm To Commemorate Summer Solstice With Second Annual Celebration

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

‘Rathskeller’ Name Subject Of Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

The complaint cites that the business has been sold throughout the years and is not tied to that specific location.

Finance Committee Recommends Tuition Freeze For In-State Undergraduate Students

If it is approved by a full-Board vote Friday, the committee’s budget plan will freeze in-state undergraduate tuition for the first time since 2015.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Penn State Hoops Gets Iced Up For NIT Title

A banner raising ceremony will commemorate the achievement prior to the team’s season opener on November 9 against North Florida.

Send this to a friend