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Meet Hailey, the St. Jude patient who sang the anthem Sunday
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Hailey, a St. Jude patient from Florida, was just 13 when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The diagnosis was devastating, but with the love of her family and friends, a team of talented doctors and nurses, and a passion that cancer could not take away, Hailey had hope.
For as long as she can remember, Hailey has been singing, and that didn't change, even when she spent months in the hospital. Hailey has belted songs out for her doctors, fellow patients and judges on "The Voice," and on Sunday, she added the Gillette Stadium faithful to that list.
As part of Sunday's Crucial Catch pregame ceremony, where cancer patients and survivors were honored, Hailey, 17, sang the national anthem and Lifestyle talked with her before her big performance to talk about her love for singing, the meaning of this game and more.
Lifestyle: How did you first start singing?
Hailey: I've been singing for as long as I can remember. When I first was able to talk I was singing -- in my front yard, in the rain, everywhere.
L: When you found out you would be singing tonight, what was your reaction?
H: I was still in bed, and my dad comes in my room. I could see his eyes were watery and he had been crying. I was just like "What's going on? Are you okay?" and he said, "What's something you've always wanted to do?" I just woke up, and I was thinking, "Okay, where are you going with this?" He just said, "No seriously. What have you always wanted to do?" I'm thinking, "I don't know. Sing the national anthem?" He said, "Yes, and you're doing it for the NFL." I jumped out of bed and started bawling. I was jumping around and gave him a hug. That's been a dream of mine.
L: Are you excited, nervous or a little bit of both?
H: All together, everything I guess, but I'm more excited than anything. I'm speechless over it.
L: Throughout your battle with cancer, how did singing help you?
H: I sang all through treatment. It was just something I could always do no matter what. Being sick didn't stop me. That was one of the most important things. I told my doctors I knew I was going to lose my hair and I knew all that. That's a big thing for a 13-year-old girl to lose her hair. I told them, "You don't let me lose my voice. I can't lose my voice." That's the one thing that I can always have and always fall back on. I sang all the time, all around the hospital, at my checkups. It's just one thing that made me feel happy and normal through that whole journey.
L: Tonight is the Crucial Catch game. What does it mean to you to be singing on a night that honors cancer patients and survivors?
H: Being a fellow cancer survivor, to be able to sing out there, I want to give hope to other kids that you can get through it and come out on the other side and still be that perfectly normal kid that you want to be. You can still pursue your dreams and cancer won't stop you. I'm singing for all of my friends that I've lost. I'm wearing a bracelet for my best friend that passed away, so I'll be wearing this for her out there.
L: What do you hope people watching who might be facing a similar battle take away from your story?
H: I hope they get hope that it can be okay. You just keep fighting and stay strong. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I was only 13, but there were times I found it so difficult seeing all of my friends still live their lives going to school and enjoying life while I'm here in a hospital bed. But I kept fighting. You have to keep pushing because giving up isn't going to get you anywhere. I kept going, and here I am.
L: What are you most looking forward to about tonight?
H: Honestly, just spreading a message that cancer is beatable and that I'm a survivor. When you do beat it, it's not something to be ashamed of. The disease isn't something to crawl into a hole about but to really show how strong you are and embrace it. That's really, for me, the most important thing to show them, like look at me now. I had cancer, but that's not stopping me. I'm a nonstop train. Read