Reece Baker was having breakfast with her family while on vacation last June in Pennsylvania when she noticed something unusual on her neck.
“It felt like a baseball in my neck. It didn’t feel normal,” she said.
The 16-year-old Lansing High School sophomore said she didn’t feel sick or feel physical pain, but began to worry.
“I starting tearing up,” she said. “Was it cancer?”
That same day, her family rushed her to one doctor, then another. The doctors each told her that it was not cancer, only a reactive lymph node.
But soon after returning to Lansing, she said she almost passed out while at tennis practice.
A visit to another doctor confirmed what she had feared – stage 2 Hodgkins lymphoma.
Then began an aggressive treatment program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, that included surgery and 50 rounds of chemotherapy over the next three months.
“During all that, I wasn’t scared. It was just what was happening,” she said.
During her treatments, numerous family, friends, teachers, coaches and city officials came to visit her.
Baker was a homebound student for three months, meaning the teachers would come to her Lansing home to give lessons. The time away from going to school did not hurt her grades. She is No. 1 in her class with a 4.05 GPA.
“School kind of kept me going. Homework distracted me from thinking about the cancer,” she said.
By November, the treatments eliminated the cancerous cells in her body.
She has returned to the classroom and her sports. She plays tennis and competes in track.
Now that her life is returning to normal, Baker is reaching out to help others.
Baker, who is now on the teen oncology advisory board at Children’s Mercy Hospital, speaks to middle and elementary school students about her medical plight and the resiliency to overcome challenges.
“My message is – you can’t give up on anything,” she said. “Push through and keep going, no matter what.”
Because of her inspirational message, Baker has been featured in advertisements by the Kansas City Chiefs and Sporting KC.
And a little more than one year after her physical challenges began, Baker will be traveling with family and friends to Paris as gift from the Make a Wish Foundation.