By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Hailey won't give up fight
Placeholder Image

Thirteen-year-old Hailey Taylor may look like a typical eighth-grader, but the past year of Hailey’s life has been anything but typical.
On Oct. 1, 2011, Hailey was attending a University of Tennessee game with her father, Michael Taylor, when she started feeling bad. She was very sleepy and lifeless and started throwing up. Her head hurt all weekend. Hailey said she had what she described as minor headaches days before the game. The headaches gradually got worse.
Hailey’s mother, Kim Nunley, took her to their family doctor Monday. He diagnosed her as having a virus. Another doctor thought she had mononucleosis. She was also diagnosed as having adolescent migraine headaches.
Hailey was taken to Mufreesboro on Oct. 13 and was given an MRI. Before the family made it back home to McMinnville, the doctor called Kim and told her Hailey had a brain tumor. Hailey was scheduled to have brain surgery in Nashville on Oct. 20.
The surgeon found a tennis-ball sized cancerous tumor in Hailey’s brain that was intimate with her brain stem. The cancer was glioblastoma and was considered stage six because of the severity and lethality of it.
According to the American Brain Tumor Association, glioblastoma cancer usually occurs in males over 50 years old.
Prognosis for this type of cancer is very poor, with a median survival time of approximately 12-14 months and is almost invariably fatal. However, a 2009 study reported that almost 10 percent of patients with glioblastoma may live five years or longer. The five-year survival rate for children is about 25 percent.
A surgeon at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital performed a seven- to eight-hour surgery on Hailey. Three spots were found on Hailey’s brain with one spot being on her brain stem. Doctors said Hailey was lucky the tumor stayed confined because of its size. Physicians told the family that type of cancer usually spreads down the spine.
The surgeon was able to remove about three-fourths of the tumor. “If the doctor had taken any more, and had gotten closer to the brain stem, it might have changed her mentally,” said Kim.
“When the doctor told us they couldn’t get it all, my husband (Dale Nunley) started crying and then Hailey’s dad started crying. I told both of them, ‘We have two choices. We can cry and let her wilt and die or we can fight it.’ I was mad. I was not going to cry. I was going to fight and push her through this. Push, push, push,” said Kim. “I don’t know any other way to act than to be strong. She does not want to see me cry. I have to be strong for her.”
Following surgery, Hailey’s brain never absorbed the excess brain fluid causing her to have seizures. Doctors drilled a hole in her head and inserted a shunt to drain brain fluid away. She will have the shunt the rest of her life.
Hailey came home Oct. 28, 2011.
She underwent radiation therapy to five different spots in her head. She must take liquid Avastin chemotherapy through a port in her stomach and also takes Temodar chemo pills.
Hailey is in month 10 of chemo. Michael and Kim go to every chemo treatment with their daughter. She has also had girlfriends and other family members including sisters Meagan Butcher, 24, Blakney Taylor, 18, and Madison Taylor, 14, go with her to treatments.
The end of this month will be Hailey’s last time to take chemo pills. The final liquid chemo is scheduled for the end of December.
According to Kim, the adult tumor board is studying Hailey because she has broken the odds. “She is blessed. So lucky,” said Kim. “She has surpassed all odds. She is a walking miracle.”
Hailey has an MRI scan every three months. The last scan showed the tumor to be as small as a grain of rice.
Following Hailey’s final chemo treatment in December, she will wait four to six weeks and then have another MRI to see how everything looks. If the rice-sized spot grows, that means the cancer is still there. If it shrinks or goes away, it was possibly scar tissue.
“Hailey always has a smile on her face. Humor is how she deals with it,” said Kim. “The doctor’s say that and her age is going to get her through this. They also say she has an athlete’s heart. It beats slow and strong. That will also help her.”
Hailey missed much of seventh grade but kept up with her studies because WCMS girls basketball coach Shea Panter agreed to be her homebound teacher.
Panter said, “Hailey blasted my preconceived notions about someone with cancer. She got sick one time we were working. She threw up and still finished her math homework. She never gave up. Her math teacher didn’t cut her any slack, either. She had to do all of the math problems everybody else did.”
“I don’t know if I could have been as strong as her if I were in her shoes. It is a case of mind over matter. She has a very strong mind. She is my hero,” said Panter.
During the summer of 2011, Hailey was playing hindcatcher for her softball all-star traveling team when her throws were not as strong as usual. She was also blinking a lot.
“We had her eyes examined,” said Kim. “In hindsight, it was most likely the beginnings of the tumor.”
Hailey played on the basketball team last year and played softball for an all-star team. This year, Hailey is involved with Interact, Beta and Student Council. Panter is training her as statistician for the basketball team since she cannot play per doctor’s orders. She also volunteered for Interact at the Autumn Street Fair, worked at the Lions Club fair booth, and has worked at a pancake breakfast to raise money for the basketball team.
“Hailey loves school,” said her mother. “She appreciates the academics. She doesn’t want to leave school. She comes in for a half-day on days she must have chemo. The kids don’t treat her differently either. They treat her the same. They have been awesome,” said Kim.
Make a Wish asked Hailey what her wish would be. Originally, Hailey’s Make a Wish was for Jason Aldeen to leave his wife and marry her. Hailey didn’t get that wish, but she did get to meet him. Her birthday was Feb. 25 and her stepfather had bought tickets for her birthday before they knew she was sick. The concert was the day before her birthday. She got to go backstage and meet Aldeen.
Hailey’s second wish to visit Hawaii has been accepted by the foundation. A date for the trip has not been set as her family is trying to work the trip around Hailey’s school schedule.
“Hailey is going to get us through this. She is being so strong and doesn’t get upset about any of it,” said Kim.
“When she had bald spots in her hair, she refused to wear a toboggan. She lives like a kid. To her, this is no reason to be sad. This is her life. That’s just the way it is,” said Hailey’s teacher and family friend, Randi Fuston.
Fuston also said Hailey made all A’s on her report card for the first nine weeks grading period of this year. “She made those A’s with no accommodations,” said Fuston.
“So many people have been wonderful. Our community is truly wonderful. I see Praying for Hailey signs in people’s yards. She still gets cards and letters of inspiration from churches and from people I don’t know,” said her mother.
WCMS principal Gerald Tidwell held the middle school’s first Christmas Wishes dance for Hailey last year. Kim works as a teacher’s assistant at WCMS. “My co-workers donated days so I could be off with her. Mr. Tidwell said I am a mother first, and employee second. He has been so understanding.”
Lucy Bunch, an eighth-grader here in McMinnville, asked all of her Christmas money to be donated to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Lucy’s grandparents in California donated money in Hailey’s honor to Vanderbilt.
Hailey wants to be a pediatric nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Vanderbilt. She has always wanted to work in the delivery room.
“We will get through this. If there’s a breath in my body, she will never give up.” said Kim.