Fox 8 Cleveland WJW

Baby battles, overcomes rare and aggressive cancer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A seven-month-old baby from Northeast Ohio is the youngest patient in the world to be diagnosed with an extremely rare and extraordinarily aggressive cancer.

When Hawken Hunt suddenly became violently ill, his parents knew something was seriously wrong with him.

Although doctors kept telling Shannon and Bob Hunt that Hawken had a virus like the flu.

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

Fives days later, after multiple ER 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,” said Bob.

Not only did Hawken have Burkitt leukemia, but there was no protocol for treatment, because it usually strikes much older children, and infants metabolize chemotherapy differently.

“It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Hanna. “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, somehow, Hawken beat the odds and Burkitt.

Hawken is now a toddler and still has a compromised immune system but is normal in every other way. The Hunts say the journey has taught them the importance of trusting your instincts, perseverance and perspective.

“The things I used to get worked up about are so meaningless,” said Shannon. “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 are extremely grateful to all of the doctors and everyone who helped them through those difficult months.

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

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