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Julie still remembers when her son, Taft, came home after a family vacation with what they thought was only an ear infection. That visit to the doctor soon became the first of many for 12-year-old Taft.
He adored playing soccer at the time of his diagnosis, but he often complained of pain in his stomach and feeling tired during games. Unfortunately, those concerns didn’t alleviate as the season went on. When they finally went to the doctor to investigate his ear infection, Taft’s grandmother called Julie and told her to come. That was unusual, since she was used to taking Taft for appointments while Julie taught during the day.
When Julie looked at Taft’s white blood cell count, she grew concerned. Her father had leukemia several years earlier, so the abnormal results rung several alarm bells in her head. She didn’t mention it at the time though, and the doctors presumed it was just a virus before sending them home.
Instead, Taft’s pain remained and he went in again the next day. Their testing options were exhausted at the local hospital, so they sent him to Texas Children’s Hospital for further exams. That’s when the fateful announcement came that he had pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The peculiar symptoms from soccer season finally made sense.
Julie called Taft’s dad and informed him of the news. Soon, an ambulance transferred Taft to Texas Children’s Hospital’s main medical center, where he spent ten days before he was released.
Taft’s treatment also meant he had to miss his entire fourth grade year. Thankfully, Taft’s grandmother spent every day with him to keep him company. Two local teachers also helped him keep up with his studies. During this time, he’s taken more than 5,000 pills and gone through 68 chemotherapy treatments. Despite all that, the only thing that actually bugs him is when people treat his courageousness with too much praise.
“One time I told him that he’s my hero and he just went, ‘Oh god mom, please stop,’” said Julie.
In October 2018, he finally reached the end of treatment and continues to get regular scans to ensure the cancer is gone. After all this time, it still hasn’t dampened their family’s spirits. Laughter helped them face troubles that emerged during treatment. Now, they’re committed to also helping other families fighting the same thing they’ve gone through.
They participated in the inaugural Lemon Climb Houston, scaling the stairs as part of Team Cypress Strong to help raise funds. They’re already hard at work getting ready for the second year of the event and hope to reach even greater heights to help kids like Taft, who is happily back in school with his friends.
Information provided by Julie Harter, Taft's mom
Updated December 2018
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