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Hannah’s Story

Welcome to our CaringBridge site. It has been created to keep friends and family updated about our beloved Hannah. It means so much to us that so many of you hold Hannah in your daily thoughts.

Be sure to read the latest in the journal, view the photo gallery, and drop us a line in the guestbook.

Hannah’s story began on October 21, 2007 with headaches and a variety of unusual symptoms which were tough to diagnose. My mother’s instinct knew something was wrong. So did Hannah's. On November 5th, during a final trip to the clinic, a CT scan revealed that Hannah had a brain tumor. We were immediately sent to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Following brain & spinal MRI’s, she was admitted to the hospital. Hannah faced all of these tests (and this new information) bravely, calmly and with eyes wide open— she was much tougher than her parents. The next day, a team of gifted neurosurgeons successfully removed the whole tumor between her cerebellum & brain stem. As Hannah recovered, we awaited the pathology report, finally to discover that the tumor was a malignant anaplastic medulloblastoma. Following further recovery on Children’s inpatient rehab unit, Hannah received radiation and chemotherapies over the course of the next year. In addition, she is participating in a nationwide research study for children with high risk medulloblastoma. Hannah was randomly selected to the arm of the study in which she receives all available treatments, including a trial drug - Accutane - which is new for this type of tumor.

Hannah remained cancer-free for 18 months post diagnosis.  On May 13, 2009, during a regular MRI scan, we discovered that Hannah's cancer had returned.  She began taking an oral chemo which enabled her to continue her life at home and at school which was very important to Hannah.  After 6 months of this new treatment, an MRI showed evidence of 5 small tumors in her brain.  We then opted for gamma knife radiation to these tumors, followed by a change in oral chemotherapies.  As her tumor continued to show signs of slow but continued progression, we changed treatment courses and prayed for a miracle.  Hannah never gave up believing that she could once again beat this cancer.

In the month before Hannah died, we all came to realize that we could not stop the cancer's progression.  We stopped treatment and tried to keep Hannah as comfortable and pain-free as possible.  With the help of hospice and Children's Hospital, Hannah died peacefully at home on August 30, 2010, surrounded by her family, just a few weeks past her 12th birthday.  Although we lost our beloved daughter, we will continue to raise awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer research.  We hope that someday soon, no child and no family has to suffer the devastating effects of brain cancer and its current treatment.  It was too late for Hannah but not for the children of our future.

Throughout Hannah's journey, we were comforted and held up by an unbelievable outpouring of love and support from Bainbridge, not to mention from friends & family across the country. Not in a million years would we have chosen this path for Hannah but we walked it with her. We believed in her strength to heal her body, in her feisty, independent spirit, in the love she shared with her many friends and family. Someday we may discover why God chose Hannah to take this path for some very special purpose. We are so grateful for your thoughts & prayers, your gifts both practical & soulful, and for the love you sent to Hannah as well as to her brothers Adam, Ryan & Andrew. Although Hannah’s story began as every parent’s worst nightmare, it became a story of love and caring and why we are all here for each other.

Latest Journal Update

Hannah's Hopeful Hearts presents Dr. Jim Olson and Dr. Michael Jensen with a special concert by St. Paul de Vence on April 10th!

Five years ago we held a fundraiser with Dr. Jim Olson to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.  Five years ago, Hannah was present at that event.  Five months after our first HHH event, Hannah passed away due to her cancer.
Fast foward five years to today...the medical research and technology has advanced to such an extent that kids with cancer are being cured, unlike they were five years ago.  And that's thanks in part to the dedication of Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen.  We'd like to share that good news with you!

We are having another Hannah's Hopeful Hearts fundraiser!  This new event will take place on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 7 pm at Grace Church on Bainbridge Island.  The reason?  In the fall, Dr. Jim Olson asked me if our community would be interested in an update on his research.  He told me that our first HHH event was one of the most meaningful nights of his life.  That meant a lot to me coming from Jim.  So of course, I said yes!

Immediately, the wheels started turning.  Ryan and I had just toured Jim's new lab at the Fred Hutch.  While we received a personal, in-depth tour by the brains behind the evolving sciences, I started to see some overlap between Jim's immunotherapy research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Dr. Michael Jensen's work at The Ben Towne Center for Cancer Research.  Remembering that Grace Church had sponsored a young team of cyclists in the RAAM (Race Across America) last spring, benefiting Dr. Jensen's research, I began to envision a combined Olson/Jensen event.  (By the way, two of those cyclists - Lucas and Matias - were classmates of Hannah's.) First, a little background...

Our first event in 2010, "Climbing Mountains for a Cure for Brain Tumors", helped to raise critical funds for the development of Tumor Paint in Jim's lab.  We are delighted to share that the US FDA just gave the green light to begin brain tumor trials in the US with BLZ-100, the first tumor paint product.  Derived from scorpion venom, Tumor Paint is the stuff that lights up cancer cells in the operating room, enabling neurosurgeons to differentiate deadly cancerous cells from normal brain tissue - possibly the difference between life and death or normal function and debilitating sensorimotor dysfunction.
In addition to Tumor Paint, innovative research under the name of Project Violet is being developed by Jim and his colleagues at the Fred Hutch.  Project Violet aspires to develop a new class of nature-derived anti-cancer compounds that attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.  This project largely depends on public donations - often from parents and friends of Olson's pediatric patients - to fund the development of drugs to treat cancer or other diseases once thought incurable.

Meanwhile at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, Mike and his colleagues have in a few years achieved great success with their immunotherapy work.  Affiliated with Seattle Children's Hospital, the Ben Towne Center is thrilled to report that 13 children and counting are leukemia-free, the relapsed neuroblastoma trial is beginning, and there is hopeful progress in targeting brain tumors.  And they have garnered the support of one very special Super Bowl-bound QB :)
Bill and I have been proud to support Mike's research in the past several years.  We became familiar with the Ben Towne organization through friends, Karen and Gregg Gerstenberger.  Karen and Gregg lost their daughter, Katie, to cancer at age 12, just a couple months before Hannah was diagnosed.  The Katie Gerstenberger Endowment Fund directs monies to the Ben Towne Center for Cancer Research.  Additionally, Katie's Comforters Guild at Seattle Children's, under the direction of Karen, provides warm, loving blankets to kids at the hospital.  Hannah was given one of these blankets when she was receiving inpatient treatment, not knowing at the time, who it was from.  Karen has become a good friend of mine through our shared grief and common passions.  She will join me at our April event, speaking on behalf of the Moms and families who support Jim and Mike.

Our HHH April event will be the first time ever that Jim and Mike have presented their complementary, cutting edge work in one place, on one night.  This is an extraordinary event.  
Since the event was originally his idea, Jim graciously agreed to share the night with Mike, saying that he and Mike had trained together as pediatric oncology fellows and consider each other "brothers".  Mike whole-heartedly agreed, and once we found a mutually agreeable date, it was on to figuring out the entertainment for the evening.

As life sometimes works in divinely coincidental ways, I had just attended a concert at Grace by the band, St. Paul de Vence.  I LOVED THEM!  (Check out their new CD, "Farther Than Light"!)  Come to find out, this band was also friends with Jim and had contributed two of their songs to his Violet Sessions CD, a music project that helps to fund his research.  Wouldn't it be a perfect night, I thought, if St. Paul de Vence would close the evening with a concert, following Jim and Mike's presentations??!  Happily, the band was eager and available and the night was set!

We will soon sell tickets to this inspiring night which will get you not only seats to this never-before-combined-Olson/Jensen presentation AND a lively concert by St. Paul de Vence, but also wine, light hors d'oeuvres, Callie's Coffee and a cupcake buffet!  Stay tuned for more information on donations and tickets to this event.
Please SAVE THE DATE - April 10th - and spread the word!!  Then plan to come to Grace to be inspired, to be informed and to give to these brilliant doctors who have hearts of gold in their quest to cure childhood cancer....in memory of Hannah, Katie, and Ben...and to all of the children past, present and future whose lives and families are touched by pediatric cancer.

Go Jim!!  Go Mike!!  Go Hawks!!

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Julie Cooper
By Julie Cooper
The Coopers are in!