My right arm has been lighter this week.
Correction: My right arm has felt lighter this week.
It’s been that way since last Saturday. I was among a happy roomful of people who gathered to celebrate the end of chemotherapy treatments for a young lady named Kate Hansen, but it was much more than just her day.
She was diagnosed with pre-B ALL leukemia on April 23, 2007, at the age of 4 while on a trip to New England. Her condition was so delicate that she had to be flown home in a special medical jet — not the last time that leukemia would affect the Hansens.
There were doctors to see, days in the hospital for treatment, tests, medications and so on. And for people with leukemia, often the cure can be as difficult as the disease.
It can be tempting when one is ill to become defined by sickness. Choosing not to do so can place one on a path that is not always easy, because diseases such as leukemia can make their presence known in a number of ways. But that was the path Kate’s parents — Jason and Carolyn — chose.
Last week, we watched a slide show Jason created of their life since the diagnosis. In addition to the many pictures of treatment, hospitals and one with Miley Cyrus, one sees a family like so many others. Visits with the grandparents, family trips to the park, Halloween and Christmas, the first day of school, hiking trips and camping excursions, losing a first tooth — the stuff of typical photo albums.
And let us not overlook that Carolyn delivered a beautiful baby, the fourth little Hansen, last December. Baby Emmett joined Jackson, Ava and Kate. Emmett’s arrival gave special meaning to the phrase “life goes on.”
I’m sure there was never a day that was not at some point filtered through the prism of having a child battling a life-threatening disease, but that didn’t seem to slow the Hansens.
These are tough times, and I think we are all looking for something we can hang on to. So if you are looking for heroes, let me suggest raising your gaze above the manufactured demigods of sports arenas and red carpets.
A family that can put one foot in front of the other, day after day, in spite of the specter of leukemia is plenty heroic for me.
Back to my right arm: Since January 2008 I wore a pink rubber bracelet that said “Kisses for Kate.” Her parents handed them out with the request we wear them until her treatment was over. Before leaving the party last week, Kate cut it off my wrist — and that is when my arm felt weightless.
I can’t be sure, but I think that might be heart-related.
Jim Osterman has lived in Sandy Springs since 1962.
About the Author