OKLAHOMA CITY - Although 14-year-old Hailey Flatt is enjoying the sunny summer day, the Goldsby teenager remembers a time when debilitating headaches made a day like this impossible.
Flatt says the headaches were like a "stabbing pain," adding that half of her face would go numb.
Her mother, Tinisha Lairson, tried everything doctors recommended, but she had a sinking feeling this was not a normal migraine.
"She woke up one morning and she couldn't walk or move her arm or sit up or anything. I knew something was very wrong," Tinisha said.
Lairson said she took Hailey to the doctor, only to receive the same reassurances she'd been hearing for the past year.
But on this day, Tinisha decided she wasn't going to leave the doctor's office until her daughter underwent a brain scan. It showed a large tumor wrapped around her brain stem.
"It was like all the oxygen in the room was just sucked. I couldn't breathe," Tinisha said.
Breathing again with hope quickly began anew at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer, where Hailey learned her brain tumor was not a death sentence.
"The good news is we know a lot more about the biology of these tumors now," said Dr. Rene McNall, a pediatric oncologist.
McNall supervised a medical plan where chemotherapy shrank the tumor, called a "benign neoplasm." Surgery was able to remove most of the tumor except for about five percent that was woven too closely to her brain stem to touch safely.
Hailey lost hearing in one ear, and the work now is to prevent that tumor from growing again.
"These low-grade gliomas tend to burn themselves out as a child finishes adolescence," says Dr. McNall. "We don't understand that, it's something we'll have to watch for the rest of her life, but it's something that the cure rate is excellent."
"She's the toughest girl I know," says Tinisha, talking about how the doctors and nurses her have helped encourage Hailey's strength through years of treatment.
"I go to the hospital and get it over with, then I get to take a nap," Hailey said.
This 14-year old is typically smiling behind custom-made face masks designed by her mother to match her outfits. Hailey is happy to be headache free, and believes her future will be cancer free too.
If you’d like to help kids like Hailey fight cancer, consider donating.
'Kids With Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.