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Hailey Franks persevered through health challenges

When you’re a high school student, going to class can be hard even on a good day. When you’re feeling perpetually puffy and moody and just generally miserable, it can be unbearable.

That was Hailey Franks’ life for a while. The Farmington High School senior was diagnosed with lupus during her sophomore year. The disease made her autoimmune system attack her organs, and the treatment she went through to fight it threw what had been a pretty normal life into chaos.

There was the chemotherapy, for one thing. She went through three months of it. She took prednisone, which made her face puff up and made her moody. She went through menopause. She got self-conscious.

“I was afraid what everybody would think of me,” she said.

She lost friends because she wasn’t around, or because she looked different, or because she withdrew, tired of people setting off what had become a hair trigger for annoyance.

“You definitely find out who your true friends are,” she said.

Franks struggled at first to keep up in school. She ended up working from home, doing lessons online. The iPads all Farmington students are issued was a lifesaver, she said. She’s not sure what she would have done without hers.

Life is mostly back to normal for Franks now. She had to quit the Tiger softball team, but she’s found a new activity. She joined the school’s trap shooting team, and the avid hunter quickly excelled. She made 50 straight shots at one recent competition and was ranked the number one shooter in the conference and third best in the state.

The activity has some other benefits, too. Turns out, blasting targets out of the sky is a good way to vent some frustrations.

Getting to this point wasn’t always easy, but Franks never really doubted she would make it.

“I was determined I wanted to get this done,” she said.

Franks also found a passion for something outside of school. She joined the Farmington Fire Department’s Explorer program and found a kind of second family. She said earlier this month that if rain forces Farmington’s graduation indoors and she’s forced to limit the people who get tickets, she plans to give one to fire captain Christopher Matek, who leads the Explorer program.

Franks plans to attend St. Cloud State University next year to study chemical engineering. She also plans to serve on a volunteer fire department. Eventually, she’d like to go into fire investigations.

“It’s just a profession I really fell in love with,” she said. “It’s a big family when you’re all together.”

For all of the challenges she’s faced, Franks has had a successful career at Farmington High School. She is grateful for the teachers who have helped her along the way, and for the connections she has made. She’s looking forward to graduation, too, and the feeling of accomplishment that will come with it.

“I’m excited for all those people to see I didn’t give up when I’m down,” she said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606
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