Three mothers are training to run in the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Florida on Sunday, Feb. 23. They are running for a very special cause: Hannah Meeson.
Hannah, age 6, who adores Disney princesses, has been battling brain cancer since she was 4.
It’s not the first time people have come out to support the little girl. Last September, hundreds of supporters rallied around her in the Heroes for Hannah event that saw 35 people shave their heads in a show of solidarity and to raise funds and awareness of childhood cancers.
Nikki Callendar, who along with Kim Landry and Claire Thomas will run in half marathon, said Hannah remains “positive, upbeat and an inspiration to all who meet her,” despite all she’s been through.
Hannah, whose mobility has been rapidly declining, has been using a walker since October. She attends weekly physical and occupational therapy sessions to help with deteriorating muscle tone, balance, and coordination – symptoms arising from her cancer treatments.
Her mother Gaylene Meeson explained, “Some days she can make fun of her disabilities, and other days she gets really frustrated and upset.”
“She can’t walk or stand without falling over,” Ms. Meeson said. “I’ve resorted to getting a disability badge for the car. Sometimes, I have to carry her to the bank. She can only walk if she holds the walker, not very far. We’re talking walking around the apartment or house. It’s a struggle for her to move one leg in front of the other.”
The family travels between Houston and Cayman for Hannah’s treatments. Now that her blood platelet count has been averaged out by doctors, she spends less time in Houston and more time at home where she enjoys reading, playing games and spending time with her pet dog Peanut.
Hannah’s first chemotherapy cycle lasts for five days, allowing her one week in Cayman. Then it’s back to Houston for one day of treatment, followed by a stretch of two and half weeks at home. The cycle then repeats itself.
Since the Heroes for Hannah campaign launched last September, Hannah has completed three more rounds of chemotherapy and her last MRI in November showed the cancer as stable – meaning that there was no advancement or regression of the cancer.
“The chances of survival after relapse for all children’s cancers is around 5 percent,” Ms. Meeson said. “Hannah relapsed April 2013 and the chemotherapy we are on now won’t necessarily cure Hannah but it will keep her cancer stable until something else is developed. There is an open trial that we are going to try next.” New approaches to treatment are currently under way in organized research studies called clinical trials.
With current technology and therapies, 70 to 80 percent of children with medulloblastoma – the cancer from which Hannah suffers – can be expected to be alive and free of the disease five years from diagnosis, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
The Heroes for Hannah fund was set up through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – an international volunteer-driven charity committed to funding research to find cures for childhood cancers.
“Our campaign is not about Hannah, she just happens to be our motivation and inspiration to do something. We just happen to be living this cancer journey. Like you and many others, we had no idea when we started this journey how underfunded pediatric cancer really is. One step at a time, we can make a difference,” Ms. Meeson said.
Training for the Disney marathon has been tough for the three mothers, but they remain motivated.
“Hannah and St. Baldrick’s are all the motivation we needed to stay the course and they will get us across the finish line,” said Ms. Callender. “Every time we struggle out of bed in the dark to hit the road for a training run, we each think about Hannah, Gaylene and [father] Nigel; we think about their journey, their hopes and their darkest fears.”
She added, “Children can’t fight childhood cancer alone – three minutes from now, a child will be diagnosed with cancer and another family will be faced with the very real possibility of losing their child. All three of us have young children and we are terrified by these statistics and shocked that so many parents and children are rendered powerless by lack of funding into childhood cancer research.”
Hannah’s family recently set up an event called “Running for Gold,” where people can donate to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. So far, the group has raised $1,669 and is hoping to gain more funds.
Hundreds for Hannah
In a similar vein, local real estate agent Kerri Kanuga is also training to raise funds for Hannah in the upcoming Keys 100 run in Florida. She has dubbed her fund-raising effort “Hundred for Hannah.” That run takes place in May and involves a 100-mile race from Key Largo to Key West.
For more information on Running for Gold, visit http://www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/runningforgold.