Perham first-grader takes on cancer with help of community
Most people go their whole lives without knowing anything about childhood cancer, and for a while, the Hartwig family of Perham were some of those people. Unfortunately, all of that changed one July night in Fargo.
PERHAM, MInn. -- Most people go their whole lives without knowing anything about childhood cancer, and for a while, the Hartwig family of Perham were some of those people. Unfortunately, all of that changed one July night in Fargo.
Earlier that month, Jess Hartwig and her husband, Jesse, noticed that their 6-year-old son, Teian, had a wood tick. Shortly after this, he started getting headaches. So, the Hartwigs took Teian to the clinic, where they were told to watch over their son and and monitor his health.
Prior to this, Teian, a first-grader at Heart of the Lakes Elementary, had always been a normal, healthy kid. He loves to wrestle, bike, fish and play with his cat and video games. "He's a funny kid," Jess said. "He has a great sense of humor. He's polite and concerned about others… He's a great kid."
By July 19, Teian's symptoms hadn't improved. Jess said she started noticing unusual bruising on his skin from accidents that normally wouldn't cause a bruise — such as a fall. Still thinking it was related to the tick bite, Jess and Jesse took Teian back to the clinic.
The family ended up having to go to Fargo to get some blood work completed for Teian that day, where it was found that his platelets were quite low.
"Fargo did different tests and told us that night of July 19," Jess recalled. "He had what the doctor called 'bad cells.' They thought it was leukemia."
Then, the next day, it was confirmed. Teian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. From there, he started treatment, which includes physical and occupational therapy, chemotherapy and a port access being surgically inserted.
Since his diagnosis, Teian has unfortunately been unable to compete in wrestling. Despite this, Jess mentioned how strong he's been since she and Jesse made the decision to explain his diagnosis to him, since they felt it was the right thing to do.
"We tried to explain it to him in a way he would understand," Jess said. "We told him what can happen and why it's important to go to chemo, take his pills and get his blood drawn. He has some anxiety about it, but he gets through."
Jess said Teian has also been very strong through his tests, including lumbar punctures and bone marrow biopsies. On Aug. 23, after about a month of treatment, Teian received another bone marrow biopsy to see if he was in remission. Unfortunately, he still had cancer cells.
"We tried to explain it to him in a way he would understand. We told him what can happen and why it's important to go to chemo, take his pills and get his blood drawn. He has some anxiety about it, but he gets through."
- Jess Hartwig
Because of this, he was then considered to be high risk, and another treatment plan for him was started. In a few more weeks with this new treatment, he'll receive another biopsy test.
For a while, Teian had to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, but he and his parents are now back home. Jess said he's happy to be back.
She also mentioned that the facilities they've been to are great, and she's thankful. The Perham community has also come together to support and raise funds for Teian's treatment. On Aug. 28, Playtime Sports Bar and Grill hosted a benefit that included volleyball and beanbag tournaments as well as lunch.
On Sept. 26, St. Paul's Lutheran Church hosted a bake and produce sale as a benefit for Teian. People have also donated toward the GoFundMe, Help Teian Takedown Cancer , to contribute toward the funding of his treatment.
"The Perham community has been so helpful and supportive," Jess said. "It's more than I ever imagined. People we don't even know send cards and show up at benefits. We're definitely thankful and grateful to the community."
Teian is even being recognized and supported outside of the Perham community. On Sept. 25, Wadena held its Princess Warrior 5K , a race created to celebrate kids struggling with cancer in honor of Jane Fiemeyer, a young girl who died after a 13-month battle with leukemia. Teian was honored at this year's Princess Warrior 5K, receiving a pile of gifts and walking part of the 5K with 2021 Miss Minnesota Elle Mark.
Teian's struggle with cancer has been rough on both him and his family, but they're remaining "Teian Strong."
"(The struggle) has brought us closer," Jess said. "We do what we have to do to make it work and make Teian comfortable. When we first found out, we didn't know anything about leukemia or childhood cancer or any of the resources out there to help families. It's a little better now. knowing what we know helps."
If you or someone you know hope to help the Hartwig family with funding Teian's leukemia treatment, you can donate toward his GoFundMe, Help Teian Takedown Cancer, at gofundme.com/f/help-teian-takedown-cancer .
Jess expressed her extreme gratitude toward everyone who has supported Teian and his family in any way they can throughout this process. "I don't know how to explain (how the help makes me feel)," she said. "You don't even know these people, and they're doing things for you… We appreciate it so much."