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Haley Miller is the incoming Senior Class President at Mansfield, MO High School, and wants to become a band director. She's also a cancer survivor. KSMU's Randy Stewart has her story.
RANDY STEWART: This week the KSMU Sense of Community series is introducing you to outstanding youth in our area--kids who are giving something back to their communities. 17-year-old Haley Miller from Mansfield, Missouri has been heard on KSMU before, when Mike Smith profiled a former teacher of hers in the fall of 2008. Haley probably has a more compelling reason to give something back to the community than most… you see, she’s a cancer survivor. At the age of 6 months Haley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor in infants and children that develops from the tissues that form the sympathetic nervous system. HALEY MILLER: I had a tumor the size of a lemon in my thoracic cavity.RANDY: Wow… so what did they have to do to get rid of it?HALEY: They did surgery--I had no chemo or radiation. My parents decided to go full surgery. They thought I had a better chance at that. And it completely cured me. So I’m very lucky to have that and not have to do radiation or chemo. I mean, the parents are terrified, and I know my parents were, but they kept a positive attitude about it.RANDY: Surgery by itself is enough in some cases like Haley’s, but she has had to have periodic checkups to make certain the cancer hasn’t returned.HALEY: I had yearly checkups ‘til I was 10 years old, and now I’m having checkups every once in a while. I’ve been cancer-free for 17 years.RANDY: Cancer-free, but not entirely free of complications from the surgery.HALEY: I do have effects from the surgery: I only sweat on one side of my body; my skin on one side of my body is probably a lot drier than the other side, because they cut nerves when they went in. I have different colored eyes, so I have a blue eye and a brown eye. And I cannot throw up.RANDY: Now, you do a lot of volunteer work, but do you have an outside job?HALEY: I work for my dad sometimes--he is a funeral director. And I take the phones, or I work visitations or funerals to help him out a little.RANDY: That’s gotta be… kind of a depressing line of work at times!HALEY: (chuckles) Yes, but I mean, when I see families that go through a hard time, I think I could help them out.RANDY: Haley Miller devotes much of her time to trying to help others. She’s a Junior member of the American Legion, and she belongs to a local Mansfield group called “Students Making a Real Transformation” (SMART).HALEY: It’s sponsored by the Mansfield Community Center. There are about 15 or 20 of us in that group. And we have clean-up days, we have projects. We had the kids from the Shelter come over and we did a pizza night with them and a movie night, just to get them out and show them that, you know, we care. We do fundraisers, we help out with fundraisers, raising money for a children’s home so they can afford to get closes and have food.RANDY: But being a cancer survivor herself, most of Haley’s volunteer efforts center on the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.”HALEY: I feel like it’s my duty to go and help other people that have cancer or have survived cancer, to reach out and help them with whatever they need. We raise money to go to cancer patients who can’t afford hospital bills or gas money to go back and forth to St. Louis or Columbia. I reach out to people who are either--their family members are going through it, or they are going through it. And I say, “Hey, I know that you’re going through a hard time right now, but don’t lose hope--because hope is still there, even if you think that there’s no hope anymore.”RANDY: At her church Haley befriended the mother of a young neuroblastoma patient, and the woman paid her a great compliment.HALEY: She said, “I look at you and I think, ‘Man! She has grown up, and she has pretty much conquered everything she’s gone through.’” I have determination--my dad and my mom always said that I was a very strong kid.RANDY: One thing Haley has conquered is music. She took up the trumpet in the 6th grade, inspired by her brother Vince and by former Mansfield music teacher Justin Ormsby. Now Haley wants to become a band director herself.HALEY: You know, I want to be a leader, and I want to teach kids that music can change your life, and show kids that even if you’re not as good as you want to be, you can work harder and you can succeed in music.RANDY: Haley is already a leader at Mansfield High School, where she is the incoming Senior Class President for the 2010-2011 school year.HALEY: I hope to bring our class together as one, you know, just to experience Senior Year together.RANDY: As a cancer survivor, Haley Miller’s message is “never give up hope.”HALEY: It’s important to support and be there for other people that have cancer or have survived cancer. When you lose someone to that, you think, “I don’t want to lose someone else to that.” So I think it’s important to be there and support one another.