By STACY MILLBERG - firstname.lastname@example.org
Hunter Perry was a normal, active 9-year-old fourth-grade student at Grand Valley Elementary School until a few months ago, when stomach pains brought him to the doctor.
After being sent to the emergency room and then to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Hunter’s parents’ worst nightmare was confirmed.
Hunter was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rapidly growing form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Burkitt’s is recognized as the fastest growing human tumor and can double in size overnight. It accounts for up to 40 percent of pediatric lymphoma cases in the U.S. and western Europe, according to webmd.com.
Shortly after he was diagnosed, Hunter had surgery to remove the tumor and has just begun his second round of chemotherapy at Rainbow, said Lynette Gregory, a family friend.
Hunter had a few setbacks after his surgery with infections, but Gregory said he is now doing very well for his second round of chemo.
Luckily, Hunter’s prognosis is good. With prompt diagnosis and intensive chemotherapy treatment, Burkitt’s carries long-term survival rates of 60 to 90 percent in children, according to webmd.com.
Gregory said Hunter is handling the treatment well despite losing his hair.
“He has mouth sores, but they are treating them,” she said.
Since his diagnosis, the community has rallied around Hunter and his family. Several benefits have been organized, including on that will take place today before the Grand Valley Homecoming game.
The tailgate party fundraiser will be from 4 to 7 p.m. by the football field. The event will include food, music a bake sale and a cornhole tournament with all funds being donated to the Perry family.
The cornhole tournament will be a single elimination. There will be a $10 entry fee per person. First, second and third place winners will receive prizes.
The Girl Scouts will be selling ribbons and bracelets in support of Hunter. Luminaries will be on display for a $10 sponsorship per jar.
The jars will be lit up and placed at the walkway for the varsity football team to walk through. After, they will be arranged in the shape of the number 36, which is Hunter’s football number, and placed in front of the ticket stand.
A “Prayers for Hunter” Facebook page has also been set up to keep the community informed of Hunter’s progress.
Gregory said through it all, Hunter has a heart of gold.
For the past three years, before he was ever diagnosed with cancer, Hunter participated in the Ashtabula County Relay For Life.
“He was walking for us and now we’re walking for him,” she said.