In December 2020, Allison Hale, now 16, learned that she had stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma. She has had many experiences familiar to people who have had cancer, including losing hair and receiving a port, a device that is inserted under the skin to make the administration of chemotherapy easier. Still, she embraced these transformations and realized that they gave her a new love for her body. That’s why she was surprised to see that her gate scar had been edited out of her junior yearbook photo.
“The scar has made me the stronger person I am today. It’s a testament to the trauma that I have so close to me and that I think about every day to remind myself of that ‘this too shall pass’ mentality,” Allison of Evansville, Indiana, told TODAY Parents. “I’ve been able to overcome this and the scar is proof of that and it’s incredibly important to me.”
When Allison was first diagnosed, she was concerned that she might not have all of her high school experiences.
“At one point I thought, ‘I’ll never have a yearbook photo again. I’m not going to hit all these milestones,'” she said. “I could do it and I just felt incredible.”
In the spring of 2020, Allison Hale’s lymph nodes were swollen and she didn’t think much about it. She later learned that she had Hodgkin lymphoma. Thanks to Allison Hale
For photo day, she wore a shirt that showed the scar, which is on her chest below her collarbone, and expected to see it in the photos. Though disappointed that her scar had disappeared, she decided to call the company to explain why it was so important to make her scar visible.
“(I) explained, ‘Hey, I had cancer. You took my scar out and I didn’t specify any adjustments on the order form. So I didn’t want anything edited,'” Allison said. “They were so extreme polite and understanding.”
Allison and her mother don’t want to name the company because it so kindly responded to Allison and gave her raw photos. But Allison wanted to share her experience to encourage others who struggle with their body image.
“It’s okay to watch how you do, look and have faith in that and your scars,” she said. “You can take a stand and be unashamedly yourself.”
The first thing Allison Hale wondered when she was diagnosed with cancer was whether she would lose her hair. She did, but that experience taught her a different kind of self-love. Thanks to Allison Hale
Allison’s cancer experience began in the spring of 2020 when she noticed her lymph nodes were swollen.
“I just jerked it off,” she said. “I started to lose my appetite a lot and I was much more tired. As the year went on, it progressed a bit and my lymph nodes continued to grow.”
Initially, the doctor thought that an enlarged thyroid gland was causing the symptoms. But after tests and a CT scan, doctors realized something more serious was going on.
“The CT scan showed it was more than an enlarged thyroid,” she said. “I had a biopsy that confirmed Hodgkin’s lymphoma on December 22, 2020. And later we found out it was stage four.”
Allison Hale’s experience with cancer had an unexpected side effect: She began to love her body more. Her gate scar reminds her of how strong she is and how much she’s been through. Thanks to Allison Hale
Beginning in January 2021, Allison underwent chemotherapy infusions for three days in a row at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Doctors implanted the port to make treatments easier.
“I got nervous before every surgery, but the idea of what would actually happen in that surgery wasn’t too worrisome because I was so focused on ‘Okay, I’ve got another round of chemo coming up and this is just going to help with that,'” ” she said. “The harbor would help me heal.”
Having cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic meant Allison felt isolated. Only her mother could stay with her when she had to undergo chemotherapy in Riley three days a week. When she was at home, she couldn’t see her friends and often felt too exhausted to even FaceTime with them. But her brother, Cody, 28, continued to be a huge support to her. When she started losing her hair, he shaved his head to help her get comfortable.
“The first time I was diagnosed, that was one of the first questions I asked my mother. I was like, ‘Am I going to lose my hair,'” recalls Allison. “It just started falling out in clumps and every time I cried.”
Going through cancer treatment alone sometimes felt difficult for Allison Hale. She is grateful that she had the support of her mother. Thanks to Allison Hale
Struggling with losing her hair and shaving it, however, gave Allison a deeper appreciation for her body.
“Once that hair was gone, it was like I was a whole new person because I took control. Not the cancer,” she said. “It really empowered me because I didn’t look like myself and I evolved into this healthier version of who I am.”
When Allison Hale’s hair started falling out, her brother shaved his head to help her feel more comfortable with her baldness. Thanks to Allison Hale
She learned in July that she is cancer-free and has had physical therapy because the chemotherapy “paralyzed some of my leg muscles.”
“I was always very insecure and when I realized that my body was capable of fighting this incredibly difficult thing and this monster that was pretty much able to heal me and keep working … I evolved to a new person,” she said. “I just came out of my shell completely into this new one, which I think is an amazing person.”