Emergency icon Important Updates

One of the Youngest-Known Burkitt Leukemia Patients is Loving Life in Remission

Hawken was 7-month-old when he was diagnosed with Burkitt leukemia. (Courtesy: Cady Meloy Photography)

Two-year-old Hawken Hunt is flying high these days. With his ever-present grin, bright smile and piercing, sky-blue eyes, Hawken – better known as Hawk to his legion of online fans – is the picture of toddler health.

But that was not the case in August 2016, when then-7-month-old Hawk was one of the youngest patients ever diagnosed with Burkitt leukemia, a rare, fast-growing cancer caused by an over-accumulation of white blood cells in the blood and bone marrow.

“There was no way a perfectly healthy boy, who had shown no signs of any illness up until that point, could have cancer,” says his mother, Shannon Hunt. “It didn’t make logical sense.”

Because Hawk’s case was unprecedented in a baby that young, and no research or treatment protocols existed, his medical team at Cleveland Clinic Children’s had to create a unique treatment plan for Hawk based on their own experience in treating complex cancers.

Hawken with his care team during treatment for Burkitt leukemia. (Courtesy: Shannon Hunt)
Hawken with his care team during treatment for Burkitt leukemia. (Courtesy: Shannon Hunt)

The team – led by Rabi Hanna, MD, chair of pediatric hematology-oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Cleveland Clinic Children’s; and Aron Flagg, MD, a pediatric oncologist – developed an aggressive treatment plan consisting of six, 21-day cycles. Over 148 days, Hawk remained in the hospital and received 14 spinal taps, six aggressive chemotherapy rounds, 13 blood transfusions, eight platelet transfusions, and four bone marrow biopsies.

Shannon quit her job as a teacher and coach to remain by his side, and they were joined frequently by older sister, Emmie, and dad, Robert Hunt, who is superintendent of Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District.

“(Shannon) would text every night before going to bed, and she would say, ‘He’s so sick. What are we going to do?’” recalls Robert. “And I remember texting back, ‘Fight.’”

Hawken went through six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. (Courtesy: Shannon Hunt)
Hawken went through six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. (Courtesy: Shannon Hunt)

And fight they did. Hawk was discharged in January 2017 and has remained in remission ever since. While his family praises the physicians and nursing staff at Cleveland Clinic for saving Hawk’s life, they also credit the overwhelming support from family, friends and the community.

Hawk is now loving life in remission. The active 2-year-old, plays sports and cheering on Cleveland sports teams. He even threw out the first pitch at a high school baseball game.

He also enjoys singing, dancing, and playing instruments. It’s a love that started with the art and music team at Cleveland Clinic.

Hawken developed a love of music during his time at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. (Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic)
Hawken developed a love of music during his time at Cleveland Clinic Children's. (Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic)

Hawk’s time in the hospital also inspired Robert and Shannon to start their own charity. LifExtrordinary is a web-based solution to help individuals or families who are experiencing an extraordinary event. It has become a social media hub for posting updates, scheduling volunteer assistance, and implementing crowdfunding efforts.

“The mission is to assist people in overcoming obstacles,” says Shannon, with Robert adding, “It’s an opportunity for everyone to share their inspirations. And for all of us to learn from each other.”

Added Robert, “Our hope is that through Hawk’s story, and what LifExtraordinary provides, people will achieve great things.”

Related Institutes: Cleveland Clinic Children's , Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center
Patient Stories

Patient Stories

Rhonda Hodge

Lifesaving Seconds Make Life-Changing Difference

May 17, 2024

“Rhonda Hodge Recovers from Acute Stroke Exclaiming, “Watch out World!”
Read Story
Samantha with family, Samantha running race and Samantha undergoing cancer treatment.

Young Mom Pregnant With Breast Cancer Finds Strength in Running

May 10, 2024

“Running kept me moving and took my mind off all the fear associated with what was going on. I believe I was able to stay strong throughout my treatment because of running.”
Read Story
Zsofi's mother, Livia, donated a portion of her liver to Zsofi.

Daughter Forever Grateful to Mother for Life-Saving Liver Donation

May 10, 2024

“My mom gave me a second chance at life. She gave birth to me, and with her liver, she birthed me again.”
Read Story
Back to Top