Hiatt spikes her cancer

Published 10:26 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
Sitting on the bleachers inside the Washington High School gymnasium, Haley Hiatt pondered a question. Her big, brown, beautiful eyes — seemingly so full of life — stared intensely at the nearby court.
It makes sense. That volleyball court is Hiatt’s sanctuary.
It’s where she found peace. Something to look forward to on the most trying of days.
And Hiatt had many of them.
It all started when Hiatt noticed a lump in her neck.
After a few more tests and scans, it was determined Sept. 2 that Hiatt had Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. Cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin’s disease progresses, it compromises the body’s ability to fight infection.
The devastating news was shocking, especially to a vivacious, outgoing, athletic high school sophomore.
Hiatt had surgery to remove the lump. The next step was chemotherapy, which uses specific drugs in combination to kill tumor cells.
Surgeons inserted a port into Hiatt’s chest. The area is numbed and then a needle is stuck in there to administer the drugs. The treatments last from 30 minutes to an hour.
It wasn’t a process she was looking forward to, but Hiatt knew the treatments were necessary.
Hiatt had to endure three cycles, which came every three to four weeks. She received treatments on Fridays and Saturdays.
Dr. Beng R. Fuh, Specialty Pediatrics, Hematology/Oncology and Pitt County Memorial Hospital’s Pediatric Outpatient Center, has been treating Hiatt.
When she learned of her cancer, Hiatt leaned on her parents, Norman and Kim Hiatt, for their unconditional love and support.
Hiatt also had plenty of support from buddies, including close friend Karlee Fottler, to help get her through the tough times.
Hiatt knew she didn’t have to go through her battle alone. But while some people were curious about Hiatt’s cancer, many shied away from her.
While the chemo did kill the cancer cells, it also produced some side effects. The brave Hiatt didn’t let them slow her down.
One of the more noticeable side effects was the loss of Hiatt’s hair. While most teenage girls are concerned with their looks, Hiatt took it in stride.
In fact, Hiatt was so confident with her “new look” that she played volleyball without a hat.
The 5-foot, 9-inch Hiatt, who stretches to nearly 6 feet with the right shoes, said returning to her Pam Pack volleyball teammates and the court was a blessing. It was her sanctuary.
Coach Tara Hunter, a first-year coach with the Pam Pack volleyball team last season, said Hiatt maintained a positive attitude throughout the entire ordeal.
Hiatt, who played three matches early in the season before being diagnosed with the disease, made a triumphant return to the court at the end of the season. Despite being weak from the treatments, Hiatt still soared at the net.
Hiatt, who plans on being with the team each game next season, has an optimistic view of the team’s future.
Though Hiatt said volleyball is her favorite sport, she also plays basketball and participates in track. She went to the regional meet and just missed out on qualifying for the state meet in the high jump event last year.
In the winter, Hiatt will be playing on the junior varsity basketball team. The team will be coached by Heather Recko, while one of Hiatt’s uncles, Anthony Clark, will assist.
Hiatt, who eventually wants to earn a scholarship to play a college sport, will suit up for the Pam Pack with a clean bill of health. She got the words she was waiting to hear — “cancer-free” — on Nov. 7. While it was music to the ears of Hiatt, her family and friends, the spunky teenager didn’t exactly overreact to the great news.
Hiatt will still have to return to the doctor for follow-up visits to make sure she remains healthy. The port will remain in her chest for another six months.
But that won’t stop the unwavering Hiatt from living it up.
After all, she’s spiked cancer.
Benefit concert planned
A Country Christmas Extravaganza concert featuring Don Cox and Friends will be held in December to help with Haley Hiatt’s medical bills. Cox, a national recording artist from Belhaven, is putting on the concert for Hiatt.
The concert, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 13, will be held at Northside High School. The exact date and time will be announced at a later time.
Those wanting to make donations may send them to: Haley Hiatt Fund, c/o Lila Everett, Treasurer, 552 Firetower Lane, Bath, North Carolina, 27808.
For more information, or to help with the concert, contact Lila Everett at 923-6381, or by e-mail at lilaleverett@yahoo.com.