The fight continues: Canyon Country teen defies odds in journey to high-risk surgery

Paul and Amy Hughes flank their daughter Cheyenne, 15, in a photo. Photo courtesy Courtney Tole, CLTG Photography

One more procedure was crossed off the list for 15-year-old Cheyenne Hughes of Canyon Country.

The Golden Valley High student pulled through Friday’s planned medical procedure better than expected, her father confirmed shortly after.

Doctors revealed to the Hughes family that Cheyenne, who was featured in The Signal earlier this week, has a tumor growing on her spine.

The mass wrapped itself around her spine’s C-2 vertebra, where nerve clusters responsible for most of the body’s muscular functions are. The location of the tumor poses an extraordinary risk to the teen’s livelihood and if left untreated, continual would ultimately lead to painful death.

The Hughes family arrived at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at 6:30 a.m., about two hours before the procedure to choke off the tumor’s resources began.

Without hesitation or reservation, Cheyenne’s natural instinct to bring joy to others sparked 20 minutes of laughter, Paul Hughes explained.

Figuratively, the nurses and doctors themselves were in stitches.

About an hour later, the laughter died down as a sense of nervousness set in. The 15-year-old was sedated in preparation for the inevitable.

By 8:15 a.m., Cheyenne was fast asleep. Paul was told her operation would last about three hours. If they had come out any earlier, trouble had come.

Doctors worked for the full three hours allotted, starving off the tumor which itself had begun to choke off blood to the young woman’s carotid artery.

Cheyenne Hughes, 15, is flanked by an Optimus Prime character from the movie "Transformers" at Golden Valley High School. Courtesy photo
Cheyenne Hughes, 15, is flanked by an Optimus Prime character from the movie “Transformers” at Golden Valley High School. Courtesy photo
At 11:30 a.m., the workers of medicine approached a worried Paul Hughes. What they told him next, no one anticipated.

“It went better than they had expected,” the father told The Signal by phone Friday afternoon.

“It’s insane.”

An increasingly audible sensation of joy was detected in the man’s voice. And rightfully so.

After all, the Santa Clarita girl had defied the odds and all the while made her father proud.

“The goal today was to block off blood flow to the tumor,” Hughes said. “That way, when they took it away, it wouldn’t cause her to stroke or bleed.”

And no stroke. No bleed.

The library-like jubilee soon quieted as Cheyenne Hughes rested. The young woman had her first meal at 6:30 p.m. and mustered enough strength to swipe her father’s chocolate brownie about 15 minutes later.

“She’s pretty smart,” her father chuckled, gleaming with pride.

The teen will spend the night resting in the pediatric intensive care unit and returns home Saturday to a town rooting for her survival.

In this undated photo, visitors from West Ranch High School greet Cheyenne Hughes. Courtesy photo
Since the publication of The Signal’s story chronicling the girl’s struggle, a rally of community support flooded the Hughes household.

Students from West Ranch High’s Wildcats Against Cancer group came to the home and presented Cheyenne with a “poster of hope,” her family said.

The outpouring of support didn’t end there.

Courtney Tole, owner of CLTG Photography, donated her photo services to the family.

Topping it off, a recorded greeting sent to The Signal from the cast of Transformers offering words of encouragement will greet Cheyenne when she awakens Friday.

But she’s not out of the woods yet. Friday’s procedure cleared the hurdle for her to undergo a riskier operation next week.

On Wednesday, doctors will attempt to remove pieces of the blocked off tumor. The surgery presents an increased chance of chance of paralysis or possibly death.

But, as a young woman defies the odds, her family gains strength.

“It’s all about making memories,” Paul Hughes said.

“It was always about being a strong family. To share her story and to share what kind of family we are, is exciting for all of us.

“It means a lot to her and it means a lot to us.”

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