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Brain Cancer Survivor Enjoys First Time At Junior Achievement Summer Camp

Five years ago Ian Hartman was like any typical seven year old. He enjoyed playing right field in baseball, liked school (especially math) and, was a good big brother to his sister Elin. But to his parents there were some worrying signs that something wasn’t quite right with this spunky kid. He was thirsty all the time, even after drinking a big glass of water. He also started losing weight and vomiting for no apparent reason. A series of doctor visits led him to specialists at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital where the family got a diagnosis – multi-germ cell teratoma. An MRI found a golf ball sized tumor in Ian’s brain wrapped around his pituitary gland.

A case like his, in someone so young and caught so early, was rare enough for it to be studied by 40 oncologists around the country and referred to as Case No. 1. Normally people with this type of malignant tumor have a 10% chance of survival, and even those who go into remission typically experience a recurrence of the cancer within two years. For his mother and father, Molly and  Brian, this was the beginning of what they refer to as “the dark time.”

Ian underwent a 14-hour surgery to remove the tumor which was followed by multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At times this meant weeks in the hospital. Molly said Ian basically lost his childhood to this disease.

If you want a glimpse into how special a kid Ian is, consider this. While he was still being treated for his disease Ian had two birthday parties. He asked his guests not wrap his gifts because he intended to donate them to other children at Cardinal Glennon. He wanted kids who he thought had a better chance than him to play with the toys he received.

Despite the initial terrible odds, Ian has now made it 5 years cancer free and is back to being a typical 12 year old, but with the wisdom of someone much more his senior. Just recently the doctors at Cardinal Glennon moved him to their long term follow-up program, a very positive sign about his future. This was cause for celebration for the Hartmans.

This spring a flyer for Junior Achievement Summer Camps was distributed at Ian’s school. He had such a good time at JA BizTown during the school year that he asked his parents to let him go to JA summer camp. This would be his first time being totally on his own since his treatments ended. He would not be coming to JA with his friends from school. His parents were a little apprehensive but, after speaking with JA staff, they were reassured that Ian’s special needs would be addressed by camp staff.

Because the cancer treatments have left Ian without a natural sense of thirst, he must drink on a schedule to avoid becoming dehydrated. His sense of hunger is also not working correctly causing him to ask when the next snack time is, a lot. JA staff were more than happy to accommodate his drinking schedule and frequent questions.

Ian impressed staff with his personal conscientiousness. On his own, he offered to use his cell phone, to check in with his parents about his compliance with his prescribed schedule, away from the view of other campers who were not allowed to use their phones during camp. He didn’t want to be a distraction.

At JA Young Entrepreneur Camp, the campers worked as teams to create a new cereal using a basic cereal starter (corn flakes, rice crispies, etc) and their imaginations. Ian particularly liked that they got to sample their cereal during the product development phase and offered his suggestions for formula tweaking.  After the design phase they developed marketing campaigns for their product.

Two days out of the week they worked in a regular JA BizTown business. For Ian, this meant working for Mastercard which he really enjoyed. They also worked together to develop a stomp rocket that they all got to test in JA Finance Park, which Ian thought was pretty cool. 

Molly said she wants her son to have hope for his future. She wants to see him make his dreams happen. Ian says he hopes one day to be working in sports medicine. Our hope at JA is that he learned from our programs how to work towards that dream and be confident that he can make it happen.

On the last day of camp he told one of the JA teachers “I am DEFINITELY coming back next year!” Having survived brain cancer and having that can-do spirit and enthusiasm, we have no doubt that Ian will be back and will be able to take on just about any challenge life throws his way.

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