Age: 14 years old
Hometown: Stanwood, Wa.
Diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Sporting a mop of dark brown curls, Hunter was like many 14-year-old boys; busy riding bikes, playing video games and hanging out with his friends and family, including his mom, stepdad, and three sisters, ages 16, six and three. When his usual routines took a back seat to frequent illnesses, his mom, Kristina, became more and more concerned. He was always tired, complaining of pain in his lungs and feeling constantly cold. When she came home from work one day and found him shaking uncontrollably, they headed immediately to the doctor’s office where they ran blood tests, looking for mononucleosis, a viral infection.
The next day Kristina received a call from the doctor and was instructed, “Get to Seattle as soon as possible and take an ambulance to get there.” Hunter was told, “You may have cancer.”
Admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital for more tests, the dreadful diagnosis was confirmed and what could add up to three years of chemotherapy treatments began.
Now, while Kristina is on unpaid leave from a new job, Hunter’s stepdad, Michael, puts in as much overtime as possible at his job, keeping the family’s financial support structure in place. He and the girls maintain their regular lives at home as best as possible, visiting Hunter and Kristina at the House every weekend. Christmastime brought Hunter a visitor even more special than Santa: his dad, Scott, who obtained a 10-day leave from his post in Germany where he serves in the U.S. Army.
Hunter’s family has a special appreciation for the House because they were required to stay in a nearby hotel while waiting for a room to become available at the House. “I didn’t know what to expect of the House because staying at the hotel was kind of bad. Our kitchen was a mini fridge and a microwave,” reflects Hunter. “But when we came here, the fireplaces were on and there was a therapy dog. I thought, ‘OK, this place is good.’” Kristina adds, “It seems no matter how tired Hunter is, he will always get up to see his favorite therapy dog.”
Hunter has faced many challenges and intense crises in his relatively short time being treated for cancer, including brain surgery resulting from an infection, which has caused, hopefully temporary, partial sight loss in one eye. His condition also requires strict dietary restrictions. “It was nearly impossible to be on a low-sodium, low-fat diet over the holidays!” he exclaims.
With a smile, he continues, “It’s been a surprise and makes me happy to see people coming in every day with food donations and supplies. It gives me hope to know that you may walk by someone and not even know they did something, but it turns out they donate or volunteer. Now I know how much that means.”