Makenna Studer learned that she had acute leukemia after testing positive for COVID-19 in September
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Makenna Studer
Makenna Studer
| Credit: Caring Bridge

A Minnesota college student's coronavirus diagnosis is being considered a "blessing in disguise" after doctors also discovered that she was unknowingly battling another disease.

Makenna Studer, a student at Mankato State, tested positive for COVID-19 in September. While her other classmates who contracted the virus got better over time, Studer's health continued to decline.

“I kept getting worse and worse and I had pretty much every symptom you could have," she told locals news station WCCO. "I was fainting and throwing up everything I was trying to eat."

After Studer's fever hit 105 degrees, Dr. Colt Williams from the Mayo Clinic was called to help her. He discovered that her white blood cells were "extraordinary elevated."

It was then that Dr. Williams diagnosed Studer with acute leukemia.

“It was like – I had just been hit by a truck," Studer said. "I wasn’t expecting that at all. It didn’t even feel real for like a long time."

Makenna Studer
Makenna Studer
| Credit: Caring Bridge

After spending two weeks in the COVID unit, Studer was moved to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for inpatient chemotherrapy.

“She has some mutations in her leukemia that we see in only 1 percent of the 1 percent of patients, so we are talking only a handful of patients diagnosed in our country annually with the type of genetic alterations that we see in Makenna’s disease," Dr. Williams told WCCO.

Studer was also hit by a series of blood infections as well as appendicitis while she was in the hospital.

But she managed to keep her head up, thanks to the support of family and friends who stood outside the building — due to the hospital's no-visitor policy — to encourage her to stay strong.

“She’s making it look very easy to go through something like this and it’s not," said Studer's mom, Pamela Swenson. "She’s a fighter."

Makenna Studer
Makenna Studer and mom
| Credit: Caring Bridge
Makenna Studer
Makenna Studer
| Credit: Caring Bridge

Dr. Williams also told WCCO that he believes Studer's COVID-19 diagnosis may have actually helped save her life.

"You can argue that with some twist of fate, the COVID-19 diagnosis was a blessing in disguise because it brought her into the health care system where she was able to be diagnosed very, very early in her disease course," he said.

Now heading back to the Mayo Clinic for another round of chemo, Studer is confident that she will make it through this difficult battle.

“You just have to keep that perspective and mentality that every day is a blessing,” she said.

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Studer's family has documented her cancer battle on her CaringBridge page.

In an update on Dec. 14, Swenson said that her daughter "was feeling better," adding that she has tests and appointments all week and is getting ready for transfusions and a transplant.

"It's going to be a long week..." Studer's mom wrote.

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