3.8 min readPublished On: April 29, 2024

Community Supports Brave Teen Fighting Cancer

Haley Williams went from a thirteen-year-old with a bad cold to a cancer patient so fast her parents are still wide-eyed when they talk about it. They took her to the doctor for a blood test, expecting to get a prescription for antibiotics. Instead, Haley was rushed from the doctor’s office to Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville to begin the heartbreaking ordeal of diagnosis and treatment that is still ongoing. She has leukemia.

In the intervening months, Haley’s life went from typical teenage stuff to complex medical treatments. She can now easily recite the names of the drugs that are part of her treatment along with the medical terms used to describe her current condition and whether her body is prepared for the next dose.

“Before this happened, I wanted to be an actor,” Haley explains. “Now I’m realizing how much I want to be a doctor.”

Haley handles the spotlight with patience and grace. Initially shy in her photoshoot, she warmed up and let her personality and love of dance shine through. Her lithe frame brought an elegance of movement to every pose.

With her cancer diagnosis, she was suddenly thrust into a different type of spotlight. Haley’s cancer journey, still so very new to her and her family, currently has upwards of 1,300 followers, at least on Facebook. People stop by the Haleystrong page to offer support and get updates on her condition. There are also #HaleyStrong (“She doesn’t fight alone”) t-shirts, armbands and lawn signs showing support for Haley all over the community.

“Being in the spotlight is a little overwhelming sometimes,” Haley shares. “But it makes me happy to know there are a lot of people supporting me.”

The side of cancer that no one really talks about is the loneliness. Haley was rushed to the hospital with a blood infection and remained in isolation there for 23 days at the end of December. She was on five different medicines, including morphine. Nutrients were administered through an IV because she could not eat.

“It was really scary,” Haley explains. “I didn’t see anyone for so long.”When finally back home, Haley couldn’t hang out with her friends or attend school because her immune system was still very weak. She missed her best friend’s birthday party and the Halloween that was supposed to be a two-person costume year. Haley continues to miss out on eighth-grade events—the culmination of her grade school experience.

But Haley is generally a happy person who smiles every day. “Once I put my trust in God, he helped me get through it. Now, I don’t feel so alone.” Haley got used to spending her time in the hospital, she says, and everything became normal.

She says all the doctors and nurses are amazing. They try to lift your spirits and make things fun. Haley has made friends with some of the other patients her age, as well. “Talking to people who have already been through this part helped me feel not so scared.”

Haley’s smile brightens when she talks about her sister Hannah, a sophomore at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala. She describes Hannah as pretty and nice, and the most supportive person. She is fun and makes Haley laugh a lot. “She’s going to start driving me around in July when she gets her license,” Haley predicts.

So far, Haley has been through more than her share of painful side effects, which include losing her hair and a lot of throwing up, but she tries to find the positive. “The good thing about losing your hair is you don’t have to shave your legs,” Haley points out.

Her goal right now is to be well enough to start high school next year with her classmates. “I want the drama of walking into school on the first day with my best friend, Meisun,” Haley says.

Haley’s mother, Lena Williams, tempers her optimism with a short-term plan, “We all live day-by-day right now, being grateful for every day.”

About the Author: Christine Andola

Christine Andola
With a bachelor’s degree in communication from the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, in 1990 Christine embarked on a blind journey to building a career. She moved through teaching in the inner city public schools, reporting for a weekly newspaper, writing user manuals and technical documentation at a software company, lobbying and public relations at the state level for national associations and marketing for professional services firms. Christine’s writing portfolio includes everything from newspapers to grant proposals. She has developed web content, written blogs, ghost-written professional journal articles and drafted ad copy. From technical writing to lifestyle feature pieces, Christine lives by the value of words. She enjoys learning about the people around her and sharing information in a way that resonates with readers.

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