The woman who passed the test of life: Allison Hale

After a seven-month battle against cancer, junior Allison Hale was declared cancer free.

Titan junior Allison Hale proudly shows her scar, a symbol of her strength, and the trials she has overcome.


Titan junior Allison Hale proudly shows her scar, a symbol of her strength, and the trials she has overcome.

On December 22, 2020, Gibson Southern sophomore Allison Hale was met with tragic news that came through a diagnosis of stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer in her neck, chest and spleen. 

She first noticed something was wrong in May of 2020, when lumps began to appear on her neck. Eventually, they started growing and spreading to the other side of her neck. Initially not thinking it was anything serious, and with hospitals being swamped due to COVID-19, she did not get an appointment regarding the lumps until December 9, 2020. She was told it could be an enlarged thyroid. But, when she had blood work and CT scans done, Hale and her family discovered the lumps were not only in her neck but in her chest, too. As soon as the scan results came in, she was sent to Riley Hospital for Children.

This visit is when she realized the severity of her situation. 

“The first walk into Riley’s I saw someone who was bald in a wheelchair, with her IV dripping, and that was the first time I was like, ‘This is real,’” Hale said. 

She then met with an oncologist three days before Christmas, who on December 22, 2020, diagnosed her with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Before Hale could start chemotherapy, she had to get a PICC line placement, which was used for her first two rounds of chemo. She also had to have a heart protectant placed for the treatment.

After that, she began chemotherapy. Allison’s chemotherapy regimen consisted of five rounds, three weeks for each round, 20 total infusions and two blood transfusions. Her chemotherapy treatment was dubbed the “kitchen sink chemo” because she was given so many drugs. It would not be an overstatement to say Hale had a hard road ahead of her. 

Here is what a week of chemotherapy treatment looked like for her. 

“Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I would get chemotherapy, and I would be in-patient (in the hospital) for all of those,” Hale recalls. “Which was actually very hard, because due to COVID only my mom could see me. I couldn’t leave the floor. I couldn’t walk around. I couldn’t see or talk to other patients. It was very restrictive and isolating.”

Her best friend made sure they stayed in contact despite this challenge. 

“I would Facetime her during her chemo treatments,” said Hale’s best friend junior Lily Evetts. “I would text her a lot and make sure she was alright.”

Hale would then go home until the next Wednesday, where she started the process all over again. 

Some side effects of Hale’s chemotherapy included nausea and severe bone aches. Hair loss was one of the more difficult side effects of chemotherapy for Hale.

On the afternoon of January 20, she shaved off her hair. Hale opted to do this instead of letting it fall out on its own. 

“Cancer is not going to take it from me; I am going to do it,” Hale said. 

Someone who helped her cope with this loss, was her brother, Cody West, who upon seeing Hale shave her head shaved his own. 

“It brought a whole new level of love between us,” Hale said. 

Allison Hale and her brother Cody West embracing. (Provided)

One of the worst side effects of her treatments, however, was something entirely different.  

“One of my chemotherapys actually paralyzed one of my leg muscles,” Hale said. “I am still struggling with that. I can’t do the stairs here at school.” 

Now, not only is she the girl who has cancer, but she is also the girl who can not do the stairs. If she could feel even more alienated this sure would do it. 

Something that was not a direct side effect of her cancer, was the deterioration of many of Hale’s friendships. 

“A lot of my friendships were so difficult to maintain,” Hale said. “At the time I was so focused on myself and getting through it, that I definitely had invalidated other people in their issues.” 

It came with a mentality that was harsh to others, but likely one many cancer patients have. 

“I had the mentality that I’m going through worse right now,” Hale said. “I wish I wasn’t like that but, when you are in that situation you kind of have to be to validate yourself. In that time you are the most important thing.” 

This was a big internal struggle for Hale, and one that took a mental toll on Hale’s mental health. Her mental state at the time was one that is common in many cancer patients. 

“I was causing so much pain in my family, and they are all upset, and it’s all my fault because I can’t control it,” Hale said. “Sometimes I still feel this way.”

Despite going through great physical pain, the mental turmoil this experience caused was worse in her eyes. 

“The physical pain just eggs on the mental pain,” Hale said. “It was harder mentally than it was physically because you are overthinking so many things. My mind was definitely my biggest enemy in all of that.”

The changes cancer caused in her brought on an out of body feeling. 

“I totally did not look like me; I had dark circles, lost so much weight, lost all my hair,” Hale said. “I looked like a literal alien, and that was hard because you completely lose your identity and any sense of self-worth in that time. That was definitely one of the biggest issues.”

During this time she had the full support of her family behind her. Her mom was staying with every step of the journey. Her Grandparents would show their love through gestures like driving Hale to treatments. Even her cat, who she dubbed her Chemo-cat, was a big help for Hale during her treatment. 

Hale dealt with these issues in multiple ways. Her friends and family were a support. To get through something like this, Hale needed more. 

“Listening to music and old recordings of band definitely helped,” Hale said. “Anything to distract you helps.”

And, her brother and sister-in-law, Marissa West, were always there if she needed to talk. 

“My brother and my sister in law were huge in listening, understanding and being able to distract me from reality,” Hale said. “Like calling me to play games, and not making me feel like a sick  kid.”

There was also a GoFundMe set up in Hale’s name, where the proceeds went to her medical bills with hopefully enough leftover to help fund another Hodgkin’s fundraiser or towards childhood cancer awareness

“My sister-in-law set up a GoFundMe, and a lot of people from school, family and family friends all donated to that,” Hale said. “I want to say thank you to everyone who donated. We raised just over $5,000, which was super helpful.” 

To help in Allison’s fight, the Sunshine Society sold bracelets at Gibson Southern High School in support of Hale. Coming back to school, seeing her bracelets on the wrists of her peers, she felt even more supported.

“Even now coming to school and seeing people who are wearing my bracelet really hits hard,” Hale said. “Seeing all the people get the bracelets and rise up with me against this monster was one of the best feelings in the world.”

Hale designed the bracelets herself and included the words “rise up to cancer” in reference to the Musical “Hamilton.” She sent a letter to the musical writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was a lead in the “Hamilton” musical, and received a response back from him.

While her love of music involved both playing and listening, unfortunately, Hale could not play music herself during much of the treatment process due to neuropathy in her fingers. 

During her chemotherapy she also had something else to take up time, school work. While she was undergoing her chemotherapy treatments, Hale could not go to school. So, she was only able to remotely complete a few classes: English and applied music. Everything else she was taking, Hale had to drop.

“There is no time for that (school) when you are focusing on surviving,” Hale said. 

Her homebound teacher at the time was Valerie Zimmer, a Gibson Southern math teacher. Zimmer helped Hale setup and work on assignments both remotely over Google Meet and occasionally in person. During this time, Zimmer learned the type of person Hale is. 

“We had some pretty good conversations when we were meeting, and that really allowed me to see the person she is,” Zimmer said. “She is very strong, very smart and very much determined to succeed in what she wants to. It was very much a privilege to work with her.”

Allison Hale celebrates surviving chemotherapy. (Provided)

The next step in Hale’s treatment was radiation, which she was able to hold off on in order to celebrate a very emotional sweet sixteen birthday.

On May 20, 2021, Hale started radiation. This part of her treatment was every weekday and lasted about a month with 20 days of treatment. 

While the entire treatment process was expensive, the radiation treatment was especially expensive with one of the bills for her treatment totaling more than $20,000.  

During her radiation treatments Hale would stay in Indianapolis on the weekends, only coming down to her house once in the month-long period. 

Finally, on June 19, 2021, Hale finished treatment completely. She was released to go home and finally processed what had happened. 

“When everything’s happening, it’s just unbelievable,” Hale said. ”It all happened so fast that my mind was not caught up. So, I took that time to actually realize what had just happened and what I had just endured and overcome.”

On July 26, 2021, a Hale with dark circles under her eyes and a changed view of the world, received the news that she was cancer free. Hale passed the test of life. 

She still had to go to the hospital once a month to complete blood tests and other exams to make sure she would stay cancer free, but finally she was unfettered from the monster that kept her from life’s joys. 

“I felt overwhelming pride in myself,” Hale said. ”It was absolutely incredible, the best feeling you could ever have. Ever!”

No doubt surviving cancer would change anyone, and Hale is no exception. In fact, it changed her perspective on life. 

“When you go through something like that, it changes your perspective on everything; you notice things that you would have never noticed before,” Hale said. 

Evetts also noticed some changes in her best friend. 

“She has gotten so healthy,” Evetts said. “She is so happy and healthy. Her mental state is so much better because her body isn’t attacking her anymore.”

Since Hale was announced cancer free, she has spent a lot of well deserved time relaxing and sleeping, enjoying freedom from the omnipotent cancer, but unfortunately, cancer is not where her troubles would end. 

Now cancer free, Hale has been able to come back to school. Where she has faced, and likely will continue to face, the awkward reactions that come with being a cancer survivor, including people not wanting to talk about it.

“Everyone has their different reaction,” Hale said. “Coming back to school and no one asking me stuff was surprising.”

Due to her experience with cancer, Hale has become an advocate. She advocates the realities of cancer patients, making sure that people do not glorify cancer and spreading awareness for the disease. 

“I love being able to educate people and spread awareness for it (cancer), ” Hale said. 

She has also become an adamant advocate of reducing childhood cancer.

“A lot of the survival rates for childhood cancer is zero percent,” Hale said. “That needs to change.”

Another thing that Hale believes in is helping people understand the different difficulties that come with cancer. 

“There are so many relationships that are ruined because of cancer and just understanding how to properly support these people and their reality is something I am really big on,” Hale said. 

While she is an advocate and loves to answer questions about cancer, the people that ask ridiculous questions annoy her. 

“I got (asked) is cancer contagious a lot,” Hale said. “Some of those (questions) I’m like, this is why Google is free. Those, I just kind of laugh at.”

However, despite some of the more off-the-wall questions, she does enjoy engaging in genuine conversations about her former condition. 

“I really enjoy telling people about it because it is something I think about everyday, and that makes me who I am,” Hale said.

She is also an advocate for body positivity, which was recently tested when the high school photography company edited Hale’s school picture when she specifically requested for them not to. The original photo showed Hale’s scar, which she specifically showed in her pictures as a badge of honor. But, it was edited out in the photos sent to Hale. This caused an immediate reaction from her, where she stressed the importance of body positivity, especially for people with cancer. 

“I was so angry,” Hale said. “Modifying the way I look and the story I tell through the way that I look was very hurtful.” 

As soon as they were made aware the company sent Hale unedited photos and apologised. While it was a mistake on the company’s part, Hale does not put any of the blame on them. 

From Hale’s picture debacle, there were some positives that came from it. Riley Hospital for Children’s PR team reached out to her about this situation. They recorded a whole story for her, and she is going to be featured on Riley’s Facebook. She is also going national with her story being featured in “People” magazine online edition and possibly in print. 

At Hale’s last doctor’s appointment, she was told there were no concerns. With her story being told in “People”magazine and no cancer to worry about, Hale is doing great. She may still be fighting demons, both physical and mental, but she has faced the devil and come out on top. Allison Hale is a survivor.