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A sweet 16 birthday in hospice care

Morgan Hayes stands on a platform as her mom, Julie, puts the finishing touches on her prom dress during a fitting Thursday in Fargo. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Morgan Hayes, 15, of Langdon, N.D., caught the public's eye earlier this spring as she prepared for prom decked out in a turquoise dress and pink fedora.

On Saturday she was the center of a more private celebration, without the sequins or showmanship, as her family marked her 16th birthday a bit early. She was born June 2, but the treatments for Morgan's cancers have stopped, and she is in home hospice care. Since another cousin was celebrating a birthday, the family decided to observe Morgan's birthday, too.

"I can only hope that you will still be with us on June 2," Morgan's mother, Julie Agnes, wrote on Morgan's CaringBridge website. "The days are so precarious, and we don't know what will happen from one minute to the next."

Morgan was not conscious Saturday, her grandfather Eugene Hayes told the Herald.

Agnes has rallied for a "Miracle 4 Morgan!" -- for Morgan's cancer to be cured -- since sarcoma was diagnosed in February. (Melanoma, a second form of cancer, was diagnosed in July.) Since Feb. 11, the day after Morgan's first day of chemotherapy, her CaringBridge website has attracted nearly 450,000 visits. There are nearly 5,000 entries in the online guestbook left by well-wishers.

While Agnes hasn't seen her daughter cured as she had hoped, she wrote on April 18, "I believe in miracles, and now I know that the miracle was Morgan's love that she shared with me for 15 beautiful years."

Agnes wrote on CaringBridge that she was not supposed to be able to have more children when Morgan was conceived.

Though Morgan was not awake for Saturday's celebration, she did enjoy a surprise party on a cruise the family took in March. Agnes described a group of relatives and waiters singing happy birthday to Morgan.

"I will never forget your smile as we all sang to you," she wrote.

Morgan's grandfather said Morgan is similar in character to her grandmother, Loretta, who died in July. He believes that "because of faith and stubbornness," Morgan will see her 16th birthday next Thursday.