The dresses, the dancing, the flowers, and, of course, the pictures. Prom is something many high schoolers look forward to. But for Hunter Dale, he wasn't sure prom was something he'd be able to attend.
"It's definitely a really rough illness to come back from. You spend a lot of days not feeling good," said Dale, an EO Smith High School junior.
During his freshman year Dale was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and PSC, a liver disease. He tried different treatments and different medications but still struggled. At one point the 6-foot-4 high schooler was down to just 132 pounds.
Late last year Dale and his doctors at Connecticut Children's decided to remove his large colon, leaving him with a colostomy bag.
"When they tell you you're going to have a bag and it's going to look like this, that's one thing. But when you see what you look like now, that was hard," said Dale's mom Kate.
But Dale isn't letting it slow him down. He's feeling better and is back to doing what he loves: running track. He's also qualified for state in six events this year.
"I'm proud of him. He's very resilient, and that's a mark of why he's been able to get through it so well," said Dale's dad Darren.
"The first time I saw him run on indoor track, it was very emotional for me," said Kate. "I'm just incredibly thankful for how far he's come. It was really great to see."
When prom season came around, Dale even managed to poke a little fun at what he'd been through. He created a promposal sign that said "I may not have a colon, but I have the guts to ask." The high school senior he asked said yes.
"I thought it was really funny and original with the way he played with the words, and it was obviously only a story he could tell. So I thought it was awesome he incorporated that into the promposal," said Maddie Gidman.
With life getting back to normal, the Dale family hopes that their story helps others who may be going through a similar situation. They want other families to know that they're not alone and that it gets better.
"Just hang in there and believe it will get better," said Kate.
"It's going to be a bit of a rough road, but once you do finally get better things will really start to turn up, and life gets a lot better than what it is now," said Dale. "I'm really happy and glad I'm able to embrace what I've been through."
The Dales say they're grateful to Connecticut Children's for all of their support along the way.
As for Dale's future, he plans to continue track in college and wants to study to be an engineer.