The first signs of Bayleigh Phillips’s illness appeared in the fall of 2006. “Her piano teacher mentioned that we might want to get her eyes checked since she seemed to be looking sideways to read music,” said Bayleigh’s mother, Dixie Phillips. Busy preparing for the arrival of a new baby, the Phillipses observed Bayleigh carefully but noticed nothing of concern as she went about her normal activities.
“The day that her sister was born, Bayleigh was sick –vomiting and wanting to sleep all the time—but we thought it was a virus. About nine days later, she came into the room and I noticed she was staring past me. I told her to look at me and she said, ‘I am looking at you, but I see two mommies,’” Phillips said.
The Phillips rushed Bayleigh to see a friend who was an ophthalmologist and to her pediatrician. Suspicious that Bayleigh might have either a brain tumor or meningitis, the Gadsden doctors made arrangements for her to be seen immediately at Children’s of Alabama, in Birmingham, where she was started on steroids to reduce swelling in her brain that was causing her headaches and double vision. A biopsy revealed that nine-year-old Bayleigh had a brain tumor.
“Bayleigh has something called a hypothalamic glioma. Gliomas are the most common brain tumor in children, but there are different classifications and also different locations where they can occur. The location that Bayleigh’s tumor occurred in was not one where a surgeon could go in and take it out without causing significant damage, or even death to the patient, so in a case like hers, the tumor is treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation,” said Dr. Alyssa Reddy, Bayleigh’s oncologist at Children’s.
At the beginning of 2007, Bayleigh began 18 months of chemotherapy.
“She would have three weeks on and one off. During the time she was on chemo, the tumor remained stable,” Phillips said.
However, by the summer of 2010, the tumor had grown again.
“Some patients will respond for a while and the tumor will shrink or not grow, but in some people over time it will grow again and they have to be retreated, which is the case for Bayleigh,”Reddy said.
Since 2010, Bayleigh has received additional rounds of chemotherapy, as well as radiation, and is once again on chemo.
“She is doing really well. They’ve gotten her schedule to the point where she only misses two days of school every other week, so it’s the most normal her life has been in a long time,” Phillips said.
“We see a lot of children here with cancer, and in particular, I see children with brain tumors. Our hope is that all these children beat their disease. Our number one goal is to treat the child and cure the child, but I would say very close to that is our desire to give them back their life and let them be the person they were or wanted to be before their diagnosis,” Reddy said.
Both her mother and her oncologist say that Bayleigh’s positive attitude has helped her though her treatment.
“She’s amazing. When her father and I think about falling apart, all we have to do is look at how strong she is,” Phillips said.
“Bayleigh has had a phenomenal attitude throughout all her treatment. If you met her and you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong. I think she has tried to do everything and more than a typical teenager would. She enjoys her friends and her family. She’s a great big sister to her younger brother and sister. She has a good time with her parents and grandparents and she loves her iPhone, too,” Reddy said.
At 16, Bailey enjoys painting and gardening, and serves as an ambassador for Gadsden City High School. She also shares her testimony at many churches.
“She always says, ‘I didn’t choose to be in the situation I’m in, but I can choose how I let it affect my life,’” Phillips said.