Every year during the holiday season, the Chattanooga Times Free Press asks its readers to donate to the Neediest Cases Fund, administered by the Partnership for Families, Adults and Children year round to help local residents whose needs cannot be met through traditional sources. All contributions are acknowledged in the newspaper. This year's fundraising effort will continue through Dec. 31.
Nora Cook has never been able to hear properly with her right ear.
Doctors didn't know what was wrong with Cook, now 57, and they removed her tonsils and tried different treatment before finally finding the answer.
Now, thanks to her doctors and a little help from the Neediest Cases fund, she soon may be able to hear again.
Cook was born with neuroblastoma, a tumor that forms from nerve tissue and is most commonly found in children. Hers was near her brain stem on the back of her head.
Though in many cases today these tumors are treatable if caught early, Cook's tumor was left untreated for many years. Eventually it ruptured, causing her to lose most of her hearing in her right ear by age 5.
"They told my momma I wouldn't live to 18 without the surgery," she said. "She eventually agreed when I was 15, but they told her I would probably be coming out of this and not be able to talk."
The tumor was removed without causing any side effects, though Cook also had to have parts of her middle and inner ear removed later because of the damage the tumor caused. She thought she would have to be satisfied with never being able to hear again with that ear.
But in December 2011, Cook had another surgery for cancer, and her ear was reconstructed -- meaning that it was possible, with a hearing aid, for Cook to hear again. Cook's surgery was paid for through Easter Seals, a disability services fund.
"It's all due to God why I'm here, and I know God's got a special purpose for me," she said.
Cook found a company that would send her a free hearing aid -- as long as she paid $125 in processing and shipping fees.
She was unable to afford the fees, and her application to the company would have not been sent in had Jessi Scarborough, life coach at Building Stable Lives at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, not used the Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases fund.
"Providing that $125 to get a hearing aid -- I think that's a life-changer for her," Scarborough said.
Scarborough works with Cook to help with budgeting for Cook and husband Tommy, who look after four grandchildren and five foster children. When she heard of Cook's cancer and the possibility that Cook could hear again, Scarborough knew she needed to do something.
"I'm really hopeful for her," Scarborough said. "Being born with a tumor and having cancer is rough. I want to see her with another form of stability in her life."
Now, Cook is just waiting for her hearing aid -- a purple device that could change her life. Cook chose the color purple to honor her Bible study group, the Abba Girls, at Firstfruit Ministries where she attends church.
She is still skeptical about whether the hearing aid actually will work, and she doesn't think the hearing aid will be that big of a change for her -- her grandkids talk loud enough that she can hear them just fine with her good ear.
She and Tommy Cook said it's up to God.
"Only God knows if she's going to be able to hear [with her right ear]," Tommy Cook said.