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Hanson walking in leadership role at Relay for Life

Freddy Hanson sits in a bucket of pop can tabs that have been collected for the Ronald McDonald House. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times1 / 2
Freddy Hanson, the chairman of the survivors for the Stevens County Relay for Life, with family members. From left, brother Charlie, cousin Ben Spohr, mom Martha and dad Michael. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times2 / 2

Freddy Hanson will be leading the survivor's lap at the July 21 Stevens County Relay for Life at Pomme de Terre Park in Morris.

Last fall, Hanson, 4, of Morris, wouldn't have been able to lead that lap as he started his struggle with cancer.

In October of 2016, Hanson's parents, Martha and Michael Hanson, got a call from their son's school.

"He had thrown up," Michael said. Yet, Freddy didn't have a fever. But his family noticed some signs that he may have had more than a stomach virus.

"He'd bury his head in his hands," Michael said. "He was light sensitive."

Freddy is usually a very active child but he wasn't interested in playing with siblings, Martha said.

An early doctor visit in urgent care led to another doctor visit and an appointment pediatrician who scheduled an MRI for Freddy. Freddy was soon diagnosed with cancer.

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed. Freddy has handled the sickness that follow chemo and radiation but he's also been improving. He has 12 weeks of treatment and one more MRI remaining.

"In his first MRI (after surgery and treatment) was all clear," Martha said. The positive responses are encouraging after the family watched the 4-year-old cope with illness and treatment.

Freddy's brother Charlie, 10, recalled wondering "Is he gonna get better. I hope he gets better."

The kid who recently bounced around his home's living room was in a different way, showing some of the resilience Charlie recalled from a prior night when Charlie helped his mom give Freddy medication.

"Charlie was helping me give him his (shots)," Martha said. "Charlie said 'Mom, he is tough.'"

Freddy may have been tough but even at 4, he recognized some of the limits caused by his cancer and treatments. Freddy was on a blood thinner and he knew it meant he had to be especially careful not to get hurt. He announced at a park that he was on blood thinner and couldn't participate in specific activities. Michael said Freddy even chided a sibling for encouraging an activity Freddy deemed too dangerous because he was on blood thinner.

Freddy was coping with his illness and treatment but the process involved the entire family.

While his parents were taking Freddy to treatment out of town their other three boys, Charlie, Arne and Martin, stayed with grandparents. Michael also continued his role as pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

"Mom and Dad and Freddy had to leave a lot," Martha said. Eventually, Martin was able to join them which was good for Freddy, Martha said. While it was difficult for the parents and Freddy to be away from family it was also difficult for the boys to be away from them, Martha said.

Michael and Martha, who is also an ordained minister, relied on their faith to help them cope.

Martha quotes from the Bible, "My grace is sufficient for you." They knew that to be true, she said. And even if their faith seemed as small as a mustard seed at times, it was still faith that got them through it, Martha said.

Friends stepped into minister to them, Michael said. "We knew it was in God's hands," he said.

Now, the family gives thanks for how Freddy has progressed, Michael said.

The Hansons also drew encouragement from the community support. People have responded to Freddy's caringbridge internet page, donated to fundraisers and provided pop can tops to be donated to the Ronald McDonald Charity which sponsors housing for families who have a member undergoing treatment.

The relay event is a chance for the Hansons to say thank you, Martha said.

Freddy knows he will be leading the survivor's lap. He recently participated in the Pope County Relay for Life. "He knows he gets to lead. He knows he feels strong enough to lead and that he can do it by himself," Martha said.

It wasn't so long ago, that Freddy didn't have that strength.