Hayes had an X-ray, CT scan and various other tests before a pediatric oncologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center gave him staggering news: It was a rare type of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.
The Hayes family was changed forever.
Photos of Colin Hayes journey from patient to medical student.
“I didn’t sleep at all the night after we learned of his condition,” Sharon Hayes, his mother, said. “I was panicked and couldn’t believe it was true.”
The questions poured into her mind: How can my family get through this? What’s going to happen to my son? How will we afford these treatments? What if I have to leave my job?
Then two moments eased her worries. The first came the morning after her sleepless night. Colin came down the stairs and told her, “‘Mom, it doesn’t matter what we have to do, we’re going to do it,’” Sharon said. “Those words from my brave 15 year old made the difference and as a family, we didn’t look back from that moment.”
The second wave of reassurance came when a Four Diamonds social worker asked her to fill out an application for support. Sharon was astonished when the social worker told her she would never see a medical bill. She began to feel that with the support of Four Diamonds and Colin’s determination, maybe her family could get through this after all.
As Colin neared the end of 10 months of treatments — which included a surgery to remove three of his ribs — the Hayes family made plans to attend their first THON. The annual event in University Park brings together organizations from across the Penn State community who compile a year’s worth of fundraising efforts for pediatric cancer and reveal the total donated after a 46-hour dance marathon.
“Your first THON experience is unlike any other,” Colin said. “Between the families who are sharing their stories, to the remembrance of Four Diamonds kids who’ve lost their battle, to the roaring cheers of students and supporters encouraging dancers to keep going, it’s absolutely indescribable.”
On the ride home, an exhausted Colin, who admitted he danced longer than he should have, told his parents he wanted to go to Penn State so he could give back to THON. He wanted to tell those who raised money what they’d done for him and his family.