Alive for Christmas

Cheyenne Hughes sits with her siblings near their family's Christmas tree on Monday, Dec. 25, 2107. Courtesy Photo

While baking cookies on Christmas Eve, 15-year-old Cheyenne Hughes shared an interesting tidbit with her father Paul.

She didn’t think she’d be alive for Christmas.

In fact, the family celebrated the holiday about a month ago, just a few weeks ahead of a planned high-risk surgery to remove a tumor from the teenager’s spine.

The procedure, which saved the child’s life, came with a very high chance of killing or severely paralyzing the young woman.

Her father reminded her of the abundance of support from around the Santa Clarita Valley the girl had received throughout the past month.

Cheyenne Hughes (left) and father Paul (right) open a gift on Christmas. Courtesy photo
Cheyenne Hughes (left) and father Paul (right) open a gift on Christmas. Courtesy photo

“Chey explained to me that once she got all the support from the community and her school, she began to believe she was going to be OK,” Paul Hughes said via an email message.

The girl beamed with excitement and not for gifts as a typical teenager would.

She was in good spirits simply because she defied the odds laid out in front of her.

“Cheyenne is doing very well in recovering and continues to impress the doctors,” her father said Wednesday.

Mid-December, surgeons installed a halo, which is a series of rods, plates and screws inserted into the spine to hold together bones weakened by radiation.

Since the operations, doctors have discontinued the teen’s physical and occupational therapy.

“I can’t explain just how shocked all these doctors are with the miracle that happened,” Paul Hughes said.

During a recent appointment, Hughes shared his amazement concerning his daughter’s progress with an orthopedic surgeon.

“He looked at me and said he was just as amazed that Cheyenne is having zero issues with it so far,” Hughes said of the interaction.

“All have admitted they never dreamed of an outcome like this for Cheyenne. Best case scenario was that she survived the surgery with only a few deficits.”

To the contrary, Cheyenne Hughes walked away with no muscular deficiencies or paralyzation.

The unpaved road the teen’s life travels on next is destined for San Diego where she will receive proton radiation treatment.

“The doctor in San Diego wants to start treatment as soon as the halo comes off,” Paul Hughes said.

For two to three months, the Hughes family will temporarily live near the hospital, while Amy Hughes, Paul’s wife will stay in Santa Clarita to provide financial support for the family.

A GoFundMe page was setup to ease the burden of medical costs associated with the move.

Aside from finances, Paul’s biggest concern now is his daughter’s nutrition.

“(Doctors) have to treat the back of her throat which will be like having a severe sunburn in her throat,” he said.

“There is still a chance of damage to the spine or other nerves as some areas will be getting radiated for the second time.”

Nonetheless, the 15-year-old from Canyon Country, still alive today, continues to inspire her father.

“The treatments will be hard on Chey and have a lot of risks,” Paul Hughes said.

“But she will handle them like a champ.”

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