Wyatt Hare is a loud, funny, rambunctious seven-year-old boy.  He has always enjoyed wrestling with his older brother Ben and making his sister, Nora, laugh.  Wyatt has always been a fighter and rarely afraid of anything.  His mother, Kim, recalls a time when Wyatt was two-years-old and Wyatt’s dad, Dan, jumped out and tried to scare the children.  Nora shrieked and tried to hide.  Ben ran away as fast as he could.  Wyatt, however, charged toward Dan yelling in response.   When Wyatt was asked at the age of three what he wanted to be when he grew up he responded, “I want to be on the fight team.”  Little did his family realize that Wyatt’s fight would be against cancer.

The Hare family’s world changed on Memorial Day weekend in 2016.  They were in the process of relocating from Omaha, NE to the Chicago area with Dan’s job and decided to visit the Chicago area to explore the city and see their new home in La Grange, Illinois.

On their way to Chicago, the family spent the night with friends playing outside and roasting marshmallows. During the middle of the night, Wyatt began complaining of a headache and other flu symptoms, and became more ill over the course of the next day.  What initially appeared to be ordinary flu symptoms, turned more concerning later that evening when Wyatt became disoriented and had trouble walking.

A late-night trip to an emergency room led to a brain scan that revealed a tennis ball sized brain tumor that had finally put enough pressure on his brain to put him in critical condition requiring immediate surgery. Wyatt was rushed to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and into emergency brain surgery.  Wyatt was kept in a drug-induced coma for two days and was closely monitored to ensure that his brain could properly heal and no seizures would occur in the critical hours following the surgery. Kim and Dan were told the wonderful news that the surgery was a success and that the neurosurgeons were able to remove the tumor from Wyatt’s brain.

Unfortunately, Wyatt’s tumor was an aggressive form of cancer called an anaplastic ependymoma.  As part of his treatment, Wyatt needed to have 33 days of proton radiation.  Due to Wyatt’s young age and the need for him to remain absolutely still during the radiation, Wyatt was going to need to be asleep during the treatments and he would need a PICC line to administer the anesthesia each day.  There are only 33 proton radiation centers in the United States and fortunately for the Hares one is in the Chicago area.

The Hare family changed their plans and moved to Chicago ahead of schedule so that Wyatt could begin radiation treatment immediately following the Fourth of July.  Wyatt underwent radiation treatment and completed it two days before he started First Grade in his new school.

Kim said, “The care Wyatt and our family received was absolutely extraordinary. We were fortunate to have Wyatt treated by one of the best pediatric brain cancer teams in the world. The neurosurgical team saved Wyatt’s life that day and the neuro-oncology team has done an incredible job throughout the radiation treatment and beyond.”

Kim and Dan say that Wyatt is as determined, curious, funny and tough as ever – all traits that served him well as he went through treatment.  During treatment, Wyatt made it a point to tell a new joke at every appointment. He asked a lot of questions about the treatment and what it meant to him, but he rarely complained.

Dan said, “I am constantly in awe of the way kids with cancer approach their treatment and the impact they have on people around them. We can all learn a lot from these kids and we owe them our best so they can continue to have an impact on our world for many years to come.”

Today, Wyatt is thriving but the pattern of this cancer makes the possibility of recurrence very real, so he continues to have regular brain scans. The Hare family and everyone around them are blessed to have Wyatt and they cherish each day.

The Hare family started an organization called Winning With Wyatt to raise funding and awareness of pediatric brain cancer.  Kim was thrilled when she was given the opportunity to partner with the Lilabean Foundation because she had been following LBF on Facebook since her son’s diagnosis.  “When I read what LBF was doing to help raise money and awareness for pediatric brain cancer, it inspired me to try to do the same in my community.” WWW and LBF share a common goal to generate funding to find more treatment options to save these children’s lives and provide a higher quality of life.

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