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

2015 Hannah's Hopeful Hearts Benefit and Concert on April 10th

Here is the updated invitation to our HHH event on April 10th at Grace Church ~

Dear Friends and Family,

Please join us at the 2015 Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts (HHH) benefit and concert on Friday, April 10th, 7:00 pm at Grace Church on Bainbridge Island. This event is in memory of our daughter, Hannah, and of Karen and Gregg Gerstenberger’s daughter, Katie, two vibrant, beloved girls who passed away from pediatric cancer.

Our first Hannah’s Hopeful Hearts event in March, 2010 was an enormous success, raising funds for brain tumor research which were critical in the development of Dr. Jim Olson’s Tumor Paint, which is now in clinical trials. Tumor Paint aims to improve surgical outcomes by illuminating only cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells untouched.  Further innovative research, under the name of Project Violet, is being pursued by Jim and his colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Project Violet is creating a new class of nature-derived compounds that treat cancer and other diseases, many once incurable, while not harming the mind and body.

In addition to Dr. Olson’s research, we have followed the Gerstenberger family in supporting Seattle Children’s Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, under the direction of Dr. Michael Jensen, a Bainbridge Island resident.  Dr. Jensen’s lab, under the new initiative ~ Strong Against Cancer ~ has achieved great success with its immunotherapy research, targeting the most common childhood cancers - leukemia, neuroblastoma, brain tumors and sarcomas. Currently, 11 children (and counting) are leukemia-free, the relapsed neuroblastoma trial has been launched, and there is hopeful progress in targeting brain tumors.  Additionally, Grace Church sponsored a young team of cyclists last year in the Race Across America (RAAM), benefiting Mike Jensen’s research.  Two of these cyclists were classmates of our daughter, Hannah, and will be present on April 10th at Grace. 

At this HHH event on April 10th, you will hear presentations by, and a moderated discussion with, Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen – two leading lights in cancer research who have never before shared a stage. Katie’s mother, Karen, and I will speak briefly on behalf of families supporting Jim and Mike’s work. Wine and beer, hors d’oeuvres and a simple dessert buffet will be provided. The evening will conclude with a lively concert by the band St. Paul de Vence. This band is featured on The Violet Sessions CD, a creative project that supports the Olson Lab. If you’d like to hear a sample of St Paul’s music, go to:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CODjueOugS4

Please reserve your spot now at:  http://hannahshopefulhearts.brownpapertickets.com/  and join us for an inspirational evening, furthering the work of these two brilliant doctors in their mutual goal of finding less toxic, more effective treatments for pediatric cancer.

If you can’t attend the event, but want to support the cause, please contact Megen Strand at 206-987-4823 or megen.strand@seattlechildrens.org.  Megen would be happy to assist you.  Donations may be directed to either Dr. Olson or Dr. Jensen, or split evenly between them.

 

With hope and gratitude,

Reba Ferguson & Bill Hunt


* Special thanks to our Title Sponsor, Windermere Real Estate of Bainbridge Island, WA, enabling 100% of ticket sales and donations to go to the Olson and Jensen labs!