Cheering 4 Chase

How A Heroic 12-Year-Old Is Tackling Stage 4 Cancer With Resilience

Attitude, personal strength and wearing a Chase No. 1 jersey is helping a local preteen remain a champ in the fight for his life. 

Chase Hartung, a 12-year-old boy from Brentwood, enjoys football, water skiing, video games, baseball -- any sport, really. He's used to playing through a few aches and twinges. It was a different kind of pain, though, that led to him being officially diagnosed with Stage 4 Ewing’s Sarcoma Cancer on Dec. 16, 2021--a week before his parents, Justin and Cindy Hartung, welcomed the birth of their fourth child.

Ewing sarcoma is a rare cancer occurring in bones or in soft tissue around bones. It's more common in children and teenagers, but it can occur at any age. Doctors indicate it's not clear what causes Ewing sarcoma, however, it requires aggressive treatment plans. The annual incidence of Ewing sarcoma is 2.93 children per 1,000,000, according to statistics from National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. Approximately 200-250 US children and adolescents are diagnosed with a tumor in the Ewing family of tumors each year.

Chase's first round of chemotherapy started on Dec. 17. To date, he's gone through 11 of 14 chemo treatments in an effort to put the cancer in remission. "We knew we were in for a marathon roller coaster ride, but Chase was ready for the fight," says Cindy. 

Justin says Chase's pain began during last fall while he was playing football for the Brentwood Blaze. "Chase began experiencing hamstring pain, but when he rested for a few days, it began to feel better. We thought maybe he had pulled a muscle."

However, over Thanksgiving break, Justin says the pain worsened, spreading to Chase's pelvis and back.

Cindy took Chase to their pediatrician, who sent them to an orthopedic doctor at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee in Franklin. The orthopedist ordered an MRI, as the bones in one hip didn’t look the same as the other in Chase's X-rays.  

The family of the Sunset Middle School student was informed on Dec. 6 that Chase had a large mass, the size of a grapefruit, and that the cancer had spread to his lungs and pelvis. It was diagnosed as Stage 4 metastatic cancer. 

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt quickly worked to get Chase’s imaging and treatment underway. As of March, Chase had completed six rounds of chemotherapy. Justin says Chase received a combination of four medicines, one that protected his heart and three that fight off the cancer.  

Cindy says Chase had started homebound schooling in February, and stayed connected to his teacher via Zoom sessions. "When he started getting some of his appetite back, he requested Jeni’s ice cream," she recalls. 

During March, the family arranged with Cincinnati Children’s medical staffers to see Chase and provide a second opinion. "The sarcoma world is small so many of the oncologists know each other and consult. We feel very blessed to have two amazing medical facilities and doctors so close-by who are willing to work together to provide the best possible care plan for Chase," says Cindy. 

Also during March, scans revealed that Chase’s cancer was responding to the chemotherapy -- which was wonderful news as he celebrated his 12th birthday on March 26. 

Chase now has had several blood platelet transfusions. On March 31, a blood drive was held in Chase’s honor at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library. Justin says they thank design-build/development company Al, and Neyer and Karin Sterns for organizing it. AI staffs in Cincinnati, Raleigh and Pittsburgh also organized blood drives. Another blood drive was hosted at Sunset Middle School on May 26. An additional blood drive was conducted in Chase's name in Ohio on April 26. More than 200 blood donations have been collected in support of Chase.

As of presstime, Chase had completed 31 Proton Therapy Radiation treatments. 

The Hartungs give shoutouts on modern medicine and the scientific researchers behind it all. "Chase’s radiation oncologist shared with us that seven years ago proton therapy radiation wouldn't have been an option," says Cindy. "In short, traditional radiation has entry and exit points through the tumor. Proton Therapy radiation only has an entry point into the body, targets the tumor with no exit point therefore shrinking the radiation field and protecting healthy tissues and organs."

Representatives of project Child Life brought Chase what's called “Beads of Courage," which enabled Chase to make a rope of beads that tell the story of his journey with cancer. Each bead represents a medical event he has had to go through. Cindy says Chase’s rope definitely represents courage with some pretty startling numbers so far:

  • 52 overnight hospital stays
  • 40 IV infusions 
  • 49 pokes (port access/blood draws/injections/IV starts)
  • 8 blood/platelet transfusions
  • 20 tests/scans
  • 14 isolations/fevers/neutropenia 

"We're so proud of Chase’s attitude and strength through this whole thing," says Justin, who is especially looking forward to this year's Father's Day.

Chase's family, friends and neighbors continue to surround him with as many prayers and as much happiness, positivity, love and laughter as possible. 

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