Bayleigh Phillips is a newly minted 2020 graduate of Jacksonville State University with a deep interest in helping others. Her bachelor’s degree in family consumer sciences with a focus in child development is the foundation for her dream of working one day as a child life specialist at Children’s of Alabama.
“I started out as a psychology major, but then I started thinking about child life specialists and how they influenced my time at Children’s,” Bayleigh said. “I’m a people person. I want to be around people and I want to help people. I want to help make the patients’ time at Children’s less scary.”
It was child life specialists who calmed Bayleigh’s fears when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 9 in 2006. Specifically, Bayleigh was diagnosed with a hypothalamic glioma – the most common brain tumor in children. “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 former pediatric oncologist.
Bayleigh began 18 months of chemotherapy in 2007 – three weeks on and one week off. The tumor remained stable throughout treatment, but by the summer of 2010, it 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 was the case for Bayleigh,” Reddy said.
Since 2010, Bayleigh has received additional rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Today, she is no longer in treatment and has successfully transitioned from pediatric to adult care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) thanks in part to Children’s childhood cancer survivorship program, the Taking On Life After Cancer (TLC) Clinic. The TLC Clinic is the only clinic of its kind in Alabama designed to help pediatric cancer survivors optimize their health and quality of life. The clinic provides detailed information for cancer survivors and their families regarding treatment, risk-based screening for late effects, psychosocial evaluation and support and referrals to other specialists as needed.
“Children’s helped me a lot through the TLC Clinic. It played a big part in bridging the gap through the transition,” Bayleigh said. “Children’s did a great job of getting me over to UAB and UAB did a great job of taking me in.”
Through it all, Bayleigh has maintained a positive outlook on life – a trait that will come in handy for the career path she’s chosen. While in treatment, Bayleigh said, “I didn’t choose to be in the situation I’m in, but I can choose how I let it affect my life.”
“Bayleigh 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,” Reddy said. “She enjoys her friends and her family. She’s a great big sister to her younger brother and sister, and she has a good time with her parents and grandparents.”
Said Bayleigh, “I’m taking every day as a blessing. Good or bad either way, God’s got this and the team at UAB’s got this. I’m happy, healthy and blessed.”