(COURTESY / SUZIE JOSEPH)
Five years ago, Hailey Joseph woke up from a six hour surgery with her teary eyed mother at her side.
Her family’s long held suspicions had finally been confirmed. Joseph had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“[I] asked my mom if I do or don’t [have it], she looked at me, started crying, and said ‘Yeah, you do’,” Joseph said.
Suzie Joseph, Hailey’s mother, was the first to take notice of the strangely large lump buried under the skin of Joseph’s neck during a routine shower. Though the family had their suspicions, they kept quiet in the hopes that it was a false alarm.
Hailey’s sister, Abby, said the entire family did their best to cover up any concerns and act normal for Joseph’s sake.
“We didn’t want to alarm her more than she already was about the situation,” Abby said.
Yet, as the date for Joseph’s surgery to remove her lymph nodes grew closer, tensions continued piling up.
Until she underwent the procedure, doctors couldn’t be sure whether she truly had cancer.
Hailey’s brother, junior Ethan Joseph, said it soon became more difficult to keep calm.
“From the beginning, I knew it was probably going to be cancer, but we were trying to be optimistic,” Ethan said.
Finally, Joseph underwent a long, but successful procedure, during which the surgeons took out the cancerous tumor in her throat, which allowed doctors to confirm everyone’s worst fears.
In the eyes of her family members, Hailey handled the news well.
“She was really strong throughout the whole process,” Ethan said. “I don’t think any other person would be as calm as she was.”
In response to Hailey’s diagnosis, her family put together some fun and inspiring merchandise.
Suzie believes this helped support her daughter throughout that difficult time.
“I was making T-Shirts and our slogan was ‘Keep Calm and Hailey On’, then we became ‘Team Hay-Hay’, then we made bracelets and more T-Shirts,” Suzie said.
In addition, Hailey got to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity when a local radio station reached out to her family and invited them to meet country star Hunter Hayes.
“It was incredible and so amazing,” Suzie said. “He was so sweet and [she] loved it. It seems as if it was quite the experience.”
As for today, Hailey is living a healthy life and, in fact, is more alive than ever.
“Today, it looks like nothing’s ever changed… she’s more lively than she’s ever been,” Ethan said.
Abby is also excited to see her sister cancer free.
“She’s coming up on her five-year mark,” Abby said. “But she’s cancer free and that’s all we can ask for.”
Now a freshman, Hailey has been cancer-free for five years, but she is still feeling a few of the effects of the disease that attacked her in her younger years.
Part of her current routine includes sticking to a special low-iodine diet and taking daily medication for her thyroid.
With the cancer playing such a critical role in her life, Hailey embraces her battle scars.
“Whenever people look at my throat, they always see the scar,” Hailey said. “It’s just a part of me now.”