By Micah Walton, father of Hannah Walton
About two years ago, all seemed well as we were registering our 18-year-old daughter, Hannah, for college in Ohio where we live. She had not been feeling well, but we didn’t think it was anything that needed special medical attention. That all completely changed when she had a fainting spell at work and ended up in our local emergency department. We were shocked when the doctors said that her blood tests indicated she may have leukemia. The diagnosis was confirmed and we were forced to set aside all plans for Hannah’s education to start the journey to find appropriate treatment for her leukemia, which ultimately led us to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
A few days later, Hannah became a resident on the 9th floor at Children’s Hospital where she would begin chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer. She spent a major portion of the following seven months as a resident of the 9B unit at Children’s. Over that long span, there were a couple of short stays in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s, and there were a few short weeks at home. The 9B suite became a home-away-from-home for our family. We got to know the nurses and other staff on a first name basis and they treated us with genuine compassion.
Looking back on our time on 9B, we are very thankful for the kind and highly skilled staff
who have contributed to Hannah’s care. Everyone was so caring and compassionate — from the staff member who came to fix the television remote, the food service staff, housekeepers, the patient care technicians, nurses, volunteers, all the way through to the staff at the front desk — the list could go on and on. We are especially fond of Dr. Paul Finch and Dr. Michael Wollman, along with the rest of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology who treated our daughter like a person with strengths and weaknesses, rather than a lab project that needed to be solved.
We wouldn’t want to mislead you by saying it has all been goodness and light. There were
plenty of dark days, plenty of fears, tears and prayers, and lots of concern for Hannah’s future. But, we must also admit that so many good things have happened that it’s hard to believe it has only been two years since her fight with cancer first began. In the 18 months since her chemotherapy ended, Hannah has been gaining back her strength, reevaluating her life goals, and planning for a productive and meaningful future.
In mid-August, Hannah had one of her regularly scheduled checkups at the Hematology/Oncology clinic and we are thrilled that all is well and Hannah remains in remission! Only a few days after that appointment, we were with our daughter while she registered as a new student and became a resident in the dorms at the College of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
We have been very blessed and we have also learned that despite the serious and scary diagnosis of AML, there truly can be a normal life after cancer! Hannah’s future is bright and it’s beginning to look like she will be able to move forward in life having faced a difficult, but winnable, battle with cancer.