allison hale Allison Hale’s edited yearbook image
Allison Hale is a lot of things – a high school student and a cancer survivor, among them – but the one thing she is not? Feeling over her scars.
So it’s no surprise that the 16-year-old Indiana resident was incredibly upset when she recently learned that her yearbook photos had been edited, without her permission, to remove her chemotherapy ports from her breast.
“As I pulled the picture forward, my whole face fell,” she tells PEOPLE. “I felt like my heart was just sinking right into my stomach because [my port] is so important to me and it was just deleted completely. “
After discussing the matter with the photographers, Hale says they were quick to correct the image and apologize.
She is now on a mission to share her story so others will embrace their scars as well, whether they are related to a cancer battle or not.
“Everyone looks different. Everyone has something, and everyone is going to have an opinion about themselves and other people,” Hale explains. “You have to stop thinking, ‘How do people see me?’ and start thinking more about how you see yourself? Once that perspective changes, everything changes. “
allison hale Allison Hale with her chemotherapy scar
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Hale, who lives near Evansville, says she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2020 just before Christmas. An active student involved in music and art at school, Hale was completely devastated by the news.
“A lot happened in my life, outside of my health. I was already in a bad place mentally,” she recalls. “So, being diagnosed with cancer just before Christmas as a 15-year-old just diminishes any sense of confidence and worth that you feel.”
“For now you are sick and sad and feeling all the emotions,” she continues. “There was anger, there was fright. I was afraid of what was to come, and lonely, very isolated.”
Much of that fear disappeared when Hale began treatment at Indianapolis’ Riley Children’s Hospital in January – an environment that the teenager cannot help but describe as “hot.”
“I met the nurses … and they just made everything seem not so scary,” she says. “Of course it was still scary, but having that support and other kids going through the same things around you makes all the difference.”
allison hale Allison Hale at the beginning of her cancer battle
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Hale continued to endure five rounds of chemotherapy and 20 sessions of radiation therapy. After the first round of treatment, the teenager decided to shave her head, despite the fact that she was once “afraid of losing my hair.”
“Even before I lost my hair, I thought, ‘I always want to wear a hat. No one is going to see my bald head,'” she recalls. “But as soon as I shaved my hair off, I was a whole new person. I didn’t want to hide it.”
“It was who I am. It was the image of what I went through and how strong I was to be able to show it,” she says. “I was immediately so happy not to have that weight on my shoulders and to be able to take control of it.”
allison hale Allison Hale during her cancer treatment
It was then that Hale promised to “take control of as much as I could” – including her perspective on her chemotherapy port.
“I wasn’t really self-conscious about having the harbor because it was the access to heal me, to heal me,” she says. “It’s not something I want to try to hide because it saved my life.”
In July, Hale found out she was cancer-free – a moment she calls “indescribable”. The teenager then focused on her physical recovery while also eagerly preparing to return to school for the fall. In mid-August, the yearbook photo day finally rolled around.
allison hale Allison Hale rings the bell to celebrate the end of her cancer treatment
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“It was an incredibly important day,” she explains. “Because at one point you think, ‘Okay, I might never have a birthday again or another yearbook picture.’ I was just so ecstatic to have another picture and to be able to show the new person, the stronger Allison, that I was become. “
Hale says there was nothing to suggest the company would edit her photo, noting that she even marked the option that said she should leave her photo untouched. Weeks later, she received the shot – and it did not take long before Hale spoke on the phone and got the problem solved with the company.
“They were so sweet and understanding,” she says, adding that she can well understand why the company might have chosen to edit her image.
Terri Adams, diamond photography Allison Hale
“I’m a teenage girl in high school. A lot of people edit themselves and filter their pictures. From their point of view, that can mean something,” she explains. “I personally do not edit mine, but I can understand their reasoning as it is considered to be so normal now.”
With the cancer battle behind her, and her gaze focused on pursuing forensic psychology in college, Hale says the yearbook’s photo experience has given her a renewed perspective on her scar.
“When I look at my scar now, I feel incredibly empowered, stronger than I ever thought I could be,” she says. “I feel like a beautiful person, not even just looking in the mirror, but just thinking about who I am and how I try to improve myself.”
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And even though she knows everyone may not feel this way about their imperfections right away, Hale has some advice.
“Self-acceptance and self-love look different for everyone,” she says. “It really is his own journey. When I start to feel down on myself, it’s a moment where I remind myself that it’s okay to feel that way. Everyone feels that way at some point. “
“Feel those feelings,” she adds. “And once you see it through, your world will change, and it will change for the better.”