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Hope for Haley: Gospel song honors late Hoosier

Haley Jenkins was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011 as a senior in high school.

BEDFORD, Ind. — A new gospel song, set to be released this weekend, honors the memory of Haley Jenkins, a young Hoosier who died of cancer several years ago.

That song is based on a poem written by Haley. Her mother, Valerie Byers, hopes her words will bring hope to others.

Byers is surrounded by her daughter, even years after her death. Pictures and mementos adorn the walls and tables of her home, showing Haley's face, her spirit and her smile that masked the pain of cancer.

"She was a pretty special girl," Byers said. "She never let anybody outside the house know when she was hurting. She never let anybody know when she had a bad day. She always stayed positive. She always smiled."

It was a difficult battle. Haley was diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer in 2011, during her senior year of high school. Intense chemo and radiation followed, along with other complications. Eventually, their family was dealt another devastating blow in 2016.

"They diagnosed her with a second tumor," Byers said. "And it was inoperable."

But Haley, even when stopping treatment, didn't stop living. She was prom queen, participated in Relay for Life, helped young cancer patients deal with their own illness and pursued a nursing degree.

Credit: Valerie Byers

Plus, Haley openly shared her faith and always comforted others first.

"After her second diagnosis, she goes, 'Mommy.' She goes 'It's OK. I just got baptized and I'm going to be OK either way.' She goes, 'God will take care of me either way, I'll be OK.'"

It wasn't until after her daughter's death that Byers learned how Haley was dealing with her personal pain. While looking for photos for her memorial service, Byers discovered journals, videos and a poem on her computer.

"It was her talking to God and just asking God to not let her take the wrong path, to accept her for the person that she is," Byers said. "I mean, it was just like she had peace if something happened to her."

Take Me As I Am

By: Haley Jenkins

Where is the love when needed the most
Why is it hard to find the light
when I'm down and feeling lost
I look to the sky to feel your warmth
Oh, lord I feel your arms when I am hurt
You are the one I know is always here

So take me as I am
With all my flaws and troubles
Help me get through this mess
Please don't let me stumble
Cause I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord
Yeah I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord

The strength I need is all in you
My weakness is beneath my feet
I look to the sky and feel your warmth
Cause you are the one who is always near
In my heart I know no fear

So take me as I am
With all my flaws and troubles
Help me get through this mess
Please don't let me stumble
Cause I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord
Yeah I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord

You are the one I can't deny
I know you're always by my side
Looking up at the sky
I know where my soul is gonna rise

So take me as I am Lord,
With all my flaws and troubles
Help me get through this Lord,
Please don't let me stumble
I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord
Yeah I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord
I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord
Yeah I'm yours, all yours, Oh Lord

"As much as I miss her? Her words, they give me comfort," Byers said.

And now, those words are being put to music. Byers' childhood friend, Lori Anderson is a singer in Nashville, Tennessee. She adapted the poem into a song on her album.

"I wanted it to hear it in a female voice," Byers said. "When I saw my friend Lori was going to be recording a gospel album, I had to send it to her. And when we heard the first rough track together, we just sat there and cried. She did amazing. She did amazing with it."

The album's upcoming debut on Saturday will help others — just like Haley.

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Part of the proceeds from CD presales through June 1 are going to the Hope for Haley foundation.

"It will be to benefit families that have children with cancer," Byers said.

Byers hopes the song will provide comfort to families through her daughter's prayer for peace.

The gospel album with Haley's song is being released at a party Saturday afternoon in Bedford. Singer Lori Anderson said she has some special surprises for Haley's mom in conjunction with the release.

To learn more about the album and the Hope for Haley Foundation, click here.

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