Cancer Survivor, Family Proud to Serve as “Miracle Family” for Roaring ’20s Auction

Cancer survivor Tim Haarmann, his mother Susan and his sister Kate share their journey and how Doernbecher Children’s Hospital helped them through it.

At 16, Tim Haarmann is having a remarkable year. He’s preparing for the Portland Marathon, landed a summer job, recently got his driver’s license, and is courteous and very smart. In short, this Tigard, Oregon high school junior is the kid every parent wants.

But in 2013, they heard the diagnosis no parents want to hear about their child: cancer—specifically acute myeloid leukemia.

Sometime around Memorial Day as Tim was finishing his 8th grade year, he was hit by a baseball pitch. The bruise on his leg seemed normal-at first. But it didn’t go away.

Then came the nose bleeds that by themselves might have seemed normal during a hot, dry summer. But they didn’t stop.

The family doctor referred Tim to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital—on the spot.

“We showed up for an appointment and didn’t go home”

Cancer survivors and their families will tell you that the diagnosis draws a line through their lives—before cancer and after cancer.

His mother remembers “the moment.” It was July 8, 2013.

“We were in a room at Doernbecher with our attending doctor, Dr. (Linda) Stork, and our fellow, Dr. (David) Kram and a medical student, and they delivered the news very directly,” said Susan Haarmann. “In hindsight, I sometimes just refer to it as just ripping the band aid off and moving forward so we can get Tim taken care of. It struck me at the time and made me really focus on what was important.”

Tim was admitted right away. The medical team recommended a series of four rounds of chemotherapy treatments, each followed by long hospital stays with a week at home between each round.

“The one thing that struck me,” said Tim, “was that not only did my mom, dad and I have an emotional response, obviously, but so did everyone else in the room, from the medical student Allison, who had maybe seen it 10 or 12 times, to my attending physician Dr. Stock who has been in pediatric oncology for 40 or so years, having seen this exact scenario hundreds if not thousands of times. Every single one of them had an emotional response, had tears in their eyes, and I could hear the care in their voice. And that was comforting for me and especially for my parents that I was in good hands and that this was the place for us.”

Tim’s mother was equally touched by the medical teams’ emotions. “That’s when I knew we were going to be okay,” said Susan.

During six long months of treatments, Doernbecher delivered the best medical care available to Tim, and took a holistic approach helping his family through the ordeal.

Mom spent weekdays at the hospital with Tim. Dad stayed home in the evenings with little sister Kate. They traded places on weekends.

“How lucky we are to have a world class hospital here in Portland,” says Susan. “We were able to keep our family intact. We were able to spend time at the hospital and at home and to have the community support us through this experience.”

“I got to go home”

Tim Haarmann kicked cancer’s butt.

He remembers “the moment.” It was on December 14, 2013.

Each round of treatments made him stronger until he was finally done.

“On December 14 of that year, I got to go home, and that was the biggest (milestone) for me.”

Onward to spending more time with Kate and his friends, to Jesuit High School, to the ski team, and to enjoying running—a sport he took up while being treated on “Ten South,” Doernbecher’s cancer floor.

“Twenty four laps around it is a mile,” said Tim.

He has reached many milestones since July of 2013 and looks forward to his next one, celebrating his victory over cancer with his family at the Roaring ’20s Auction.

“This is a community that gave me as good a cancer treatment you can have,” says Tim of Doernbecher. “They gave me a second chance at life, and I really appreciate it.”

Tim and his family will serve as the Miracle Family for the Northwest Credit Union Association’s annual Credit Unions for Kids auction, which will carry a Roaring ’20s theme. The annual auction raises funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through Credit Unions for Kids. For Tim and for the Haarmanns, serving as the Miracle Family is a way of giving back.

“In very simple terms,” said Susan, “Doernbecher saved my son’s life, and I can’t think of a greater gift.”

The NWCUA’s Roaring ’20s Auction benefiting Credit Unions for Kids and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals will be held the evening of October 7 during Amplify Convention in downtown Portland. Information can be found on the Amplify website.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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