Baby beats odds, overcomes rare, aggressive cancer

CLEVELAND - At seven months old, Hawken Hunt is the youngest patient in the world to be diagnosed with an extremely rare and extraordinarily aggressive cancer, according to WJW.

When the Ohio boy suddenly became violent ill, his parents knew something was seriously wrong.

Doctors repeatedly told Shannon and Bob Hunt that Hawken had something like the flu, but Shannon didn't think this was just a virus.

“Call it mother's intuition,” Shannon said. “I just knew.”

After five days of multiple emergency room visits and blood tests, the Hunts took Hawken to the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Rabi Hanna, Chairman of Pediatric Hematology Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant, immediately diagnosed leukemia.

“They escorted us down a hallway and took us into a conference room and they explained to us that Hawken had Burkitt,” Bob said.

Not only did Hawken have Burkitt leukemia, but there was no protocol for treating a child his age. Infants metabolize chemotherapy differently than older children, and being the youngest patient ever to receive the diagnosis, a medical team had to create their own plan of attack.

“It’s a challenge,” Hanna said. “It is the most aggressive cancer that we have; this tumor doubles in size every 24-48 hours.”

A team of doctors created an equally aggressive treatment plan and five months later, Hawken beat the odds and defeated Burkitt.

Hawken is now a toddler, and though he still has a compromised immune system, his parents say he's normal in every other way. They said the journey taught them the importance of perseverance, perspective and trusting your instincts.

“The things I used to get worked up about are so meaningless,” Shannon said. “And I think we can all be a little more patient, a little bit more caring, 'cause we’re all coming with something.”

The Hunts started a non-profit foundation called LifExtraordinary to help fund pediatric cancer research and to help families battling cancer.

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