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  A three-part series by The Boston Globe's Thomas Farragher

Tackling freshman year against the odds

Emily Crockett's mind is her dwelling place. It has been her blessing, a repository of rare brilliance. And it has been her betrayer. When she was just a small child, malignancies formed near her brain stem, leaving her legally blind and paralyzed on her left side. But it had no power to obscure the essence of Emily: Her singular determination that her life would not be defined by the malignant star-shaped cells that linger in her brain or by the long, thin cane with which she now navigates the well-groomed quadrangles of Harvard.
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: Going to Harvard
Message Board MESSAGE BOARD: Share your thoughts

A life-or-death battle begins

She was a shy little girl, a curly-haired kid content to lose herself in books and sing softly alone in the warm embrace of her bedroom. She had a sly sense of humor and dazzling talent for math. But her parents knew something wasn’t quite right. Six-year-old Emily, too, noticed something odd. Suddenly foods she loved — even her favorite vanilla ice cream — served disappointment instead of delight.
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: Growing up
Emily's Story: Multimedia Part 2

Pushed to the brink by pain

The sturdy door to her red-brick dormitory swings open and Emily Crockett steps into Harvard Yard, her hair caught in the sudden bluster of a piercing winter afternoon. Her long, thin cane sweeps across small arcs of sidewalk. Despite the limp in her left leg, there is a confidence to her stride. And as her first semester as a Harvard freshman speeds toward its conclusion, she has found good cause for that confidence.
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: Facing challenges
Emily's Story: Multimedia Part 3