Freshman year…

“Eh, it was interesting.”

Is about discovering who you are.

“It was definitely a transition from middle school.”

For Central Senior Hailey Cassell –

“It was about April…freshman year when everything happened.”

She faced adversity early on.

“I had a lump right here, and I wasn’t making much notice of it. It was more of a cosmetic thing.”

After tests came back negative, Hailey decided to get it removed.

“I went to go get stiches out, and they hadn’t told us yet and so we went to the doctor. My mom wasn’t there. My grandma told me because she was at work, and my doctor called her and said, ‘Why aren’t you?’ and at that moment, she knew…It came back Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.”

Hailey’s world was turned upside-down.

“I was just really going through the idea that ‘why me?’ or ‘how could it be me?’ because you hear about people with cancer, and you don’t think ‘it’s going to happen to me.’ Especially as a freshman. I was not prepared for that.”

As well as going through chemo at Cook’s children’s Hospital in Dallas –

“I had to get three major treatments there, so it will be like every treatment, every three weeks. I had to go up and get a major treatment and down here in Shannon, I got a minor treatment every three weeks.”

And the side effects to come…

“I was on anesthesia, I was on chemo, I just gotten out. I hadn’t eaten anything all day long, pretty much everything that can happen happened. I was in pain and couldn’t move all night long, and I had to get up every hour and I was throwing up. It was definitely the worst night I’ve ever experienced.”

And then the hair.

“At that point, my hair was super thick and so, I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll be one of those cases. Maybe I’ll be that person they say miraculously doesn’t lose their hair.’”

Then reality set in.

“One of my doctors was like, ‘You’re going to lose your hair.’ Really blunt about it. You know what? I got to accept it…Then when it came out in class, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s happening.’ And so I went and got my hair cut into a bob and the day it came out all together, it was just like big chunks.”

And Hailey’s family grew closer.

“My whole family shaved their head, so it was like six of us with bald heads running around…My mom, I was with her when I did it and my dad, she shaved his head. And all three of my brothers, I had shaved their heads. So, I was kind-of the one doing it. I wouldn’t say it was fun because we were all losing our hair, but it was a family experience. We kind-of enjoy each other and just accept it, what was going to happen.”

Hailey was also fearful that cancer would stop her from playing the sport she loved.

“I knew I was going to be out of soccer.”

So Hailey made a decision so she would not have to watch from the sidelines.

“You can either have a pickline, which goes all the way up and it comes out of your skin, which me being so active, we opted out of it. So, that was easier, so we went with the two surgeries and went ahead and put the port in so I can stay active and swim and all that.”

So, you can say she is a fighter!

“Afterwards, I don’t know, it just gave me a feeling that I can still do it because I was out of everything else, like soccer. It hurt and burned, but afterwards, it made me feel accomplished.”

Four months later…

“I was fully cleared to do everything by about August…I remember my mom and I leaving, and we were in the parking lot of the hospital and just like, crying and hugging each other. We were so excited.”

And now Hailey starts a new journey.

“It was a bunch of different emotions involved. It was like, I mean, I had no more fear anymore really. It was a mixture of excitement, happiness, like, ‘Oh my gosh, we just did that.’”

What about soccer?

“Start getting myself back into my soccer shape and everything, so it was like, overwhelming. Different emotions.”

Has she cut her hair since?

“No, I have not. Trimmed it a couple of times to keep the ends pretty safe and healthy, but I have not cut my hair.”

Is it because of…

“It is traumatizing for me, putting scissors next to my hair.”

What is her ultimate goal?

“My ultimate goal is to really become a pediatric oncologist and really impact kids’ lives and families’ lives.”

Hailey has become an inspiration to others.

“Since everything happened, I have done quite a few talks and I’ve been asked to do quite a few things, and that’s just the last four years. I did a talk for a women’s walk at Crysills. I did an entire talk for a group of girls there, and even that now has really helped people out.”