VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - The community of Vancleave has been cheering for Natalie Hightower's recovery since first learning the middle schooler had a rare brain tumor earlier this year. Now, the teen is back at school and doing some cheering of her own.
"I always tell my friends I love school, and they are like, 'You love school?' I am like, 'Yes!'"
Thursday, an energetic and excited Natalie Hightower cheered with her teammates before the entire Vancleave Middle school for first time in a long time.
"Natalie was diagnosed with a brain tumor in about May of last school year. At first they said it was no problem. It was just a benign and everything would be great. When they got in there they discovered it was malignant, and she does have brain cancer," Principal Jill Davis said.
Because of that, Natalie wasn't able to finish the end of the school year.
"I would see pictures on Facebook or Instragram and I saw my friends having fun, and I was at the hospital not having fun," Hightower said.
But many of her classmates said they were more concerned about their friend getting well than having fun.
"It was pretty devastating, but I just prayed about it and everything was good," Lauren Davis said.
Natalie is thrilled to be back and refuses to let her illness defeat her spirit.
"I really don't feel the tumor inside. I feel like the normal girl," Hightower said.
"She is able to come to school every day. She gets a little bit tired sometimes, but she is just doing a great job with the school work," cheerleading Coach Lesley Fairley said.
School officials said Natalie will go for another round of treatments next week. Her classmates, teachers, and even cheerleading team are already praying for a speedy recovery.
"I pray that she keeps her strength, stay strong for herself and keep fighting," student Lauren Davis said.