Hawken Hunt was only 7 months old when he suddenly became very ill.
As Fox News reports, Hawken hadn’t shown any signs of sickness in his short life. When he started vomiting and showing other flu-like symptoms, doctors told his parents it must be a virus. But as Hawken’s mother, Shannon, told WJW, her mother’s intuition was telling her something different:
“I wanted to believe everyone that was telling me it was a virus. And I remember crying in frustration because I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me.”
Hawken was one of the youngest children ever diagnosed with Burkitt leukemia. Shannon later said that it was difficult to understand how their healthy baby boy had suddenly contracted such a deadly disease:
“There was no way a perfectly healthy boy, who had shown no signs of any illness up until that point, could have cancer. It didn’t make logical sense.”
And there was another problem. Because patients with Burkitt leukemia are usually older when they are diagnosed, there was no treatment plan in place for an infant like Hawken. Doctors had to come up with a way to address the fast-moving cancer with the knowledge that chemotherapy affects babies differently than older children.
All smiles today: still cancer free! pic.twitter.com/UGtmEa51l9
— Hawken Hunt (@HuntHawken) May 18, 2017
“It’s a challenge,” Dr. Rabi Hanna told WJW. “It is the most aggressive cancer that we have. This tumor doubles in size every 24 to 48 hours.”
Hawken spent the next 148 days in the hospital, where he went through six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, 14 lumbar punctures, 13 blood transfusions, four bone marrow extractions, and eight platelet transfusions. Finally, after five months of treatment, Hawken’s cancer went into remission and he was able to go home.
Helping their son’s fight against the cancer took its toll on the Hunt family. Shannon quit her job to stay with her son, and they struggled to make use of the support services available for families dealing with serious illness.
Inspired by their experience, the Hunt family started the LifExtraordinary Foundation, which supports pediatric cancer research and helps families. Hawken, who is now 3-years-old, is still cancer-free and recently threw out the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians game.
Shannon told WJW that their son’s cancer battle taught them all something about perspective, purpose, and perseverance:
“The things I used to get worked up about are so meaningless. And I think we can all be a little more patient, a little bit more caring ’cause we’re all coming with something.”