Haering in a fight for her lifeWoodbury resident continues battle against leukemia.
As the 2010-11 school year looms a month away, many students are turning their thoughts towards yet another season in the classroom as they prepare to deal with the academic as well as social trials that the nine months between summer vacations entail.
One local girl, however, has been facing a much greater test, one far more stern than even the most difficult trigonometry exam could possibly be.
What Ann Haering has been contending with has been, literally, a fight for her life.
The East Ridge senior has been contending with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia since she was originally diagnosed with the disease as an eighth-grader at Lake Middle School on Feb. 6, 2007.
“It was a shock,” she said of the initial diagnosis. “I was 14 — you never expect to be diagnosed with cancer.”
After nearly 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy, Haering was in remission and able to return to a typical high school life.
However, the remission turned out to be temporary and on April 28 she found out the leukemia had returned. Two days later, the chemotherapy began again.
“Everything was looking fine, but then, it came back,” Haering said. “I didn’t want to believe it — I was very scared when I was told. It sucked, really.”
Now, as friends and siblings prepare for school, Haering readies herself for the greatest challenge of her life — a bone/blood marrow transplant to be performed at the University of Minnesota Medical Center on Monday, Aug. 9.
“It’s just what I have to do to get better,” she said.
Haering entered the hospital for a week-long regimen of high-dose chemotherapy and twice-daily radiation treatments on Monday, Aug. 2.
“The goal is to kill off the (diseased) cells before the transplant puts in the new marrow,” she said. “I do get a day of rest in-between the chemo and the radiation.”
Quite a bit more for anyone, much less a teenager, to deal with — certainly more than deciding what outfit to wear on the first day of school.
The transplant procedure was set to begin on July 19, however, Haering wanted to be in attendance at the golf fundraiser that the East Ridge golf teams shared with her.
Haering’s siblings both play in the East Ridge golf program and the Raptors were keen to lend a hand. The event was held at Mississippi Dunes Golf Course in Cottage Grove on Saturday, July 31.
“I was amazed when (East Ridge boys golf coach) Bret Brookins asked me in May if it was okay to add my name to the fundraiser,” Haering said. “I was so grateful that they would include me. It was really fun and a great turnout.”
More than 100 people were on hand, donating their time and money to help defray some of the medical costs — including the Haering family’s end of the approximate $1.5 million toll of the transplant.
“We have really good insurance,” Haering said. “But the co-pays, parking, gas — all that stuff — it really adds up. I’m so thankful to everyone who came out.”
With just one day to reflect on the fundraiser, the eldest Haering daughter entered the hospital, emboldened to face the ordeal that lies ahead and cautiously optimistic of a cancer-free future.
“The prognosis is good,” she said. “There will still be a chance of relapse.”
The word was as hard to hear — if not harder — than the term “cancer” was for Haering.
“The first time I was diagnosed, I was getting these really bad pains in my back and I just didn’t feel right,” she said. “So finding out what was wrong with me was a relief.”
Even though the discovery was Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“You take the cards that have been handed to you,” she said.
What followed was a battle that lasted through 28 months and three changes of school — from Lake, to Woodbury High School, to East Ridge — before she was once again cancer-free.
“The chemotherapy was hard,” Haering said. “It never knocked me down too hard, I never got too sick, but it’s still not something that I would wish on anyone.”
Her sandy-blond hair fell out, her mouth got so full of sores that all she could take in for sustenance were milkshakes and her promising soccer career — Haering was a forward for the Woodbury Soccer Club’s U-14 Premier team — was over.
However, she remained positive and looked forward to defeating the cancer that had derailed her “normal” life.
“It’s made a good impact,” Haering said. “For as bad of a situation as it is, it really has made a good impact. I’ve made some great, life-long friends that I might not have otherwise and I’ve had some great experiences with Make-A-Wish and HopeKids.”
The chemotherapy did help Haering back to a more normalized existence with the declaration of remission on June 11, 2009, as she was able to return to the halls of ERHS as a healthy student for her junior year.
Yet, the remission proved to be only a temporary oasis.
As this past winter turned to spring, Haering began to notice something was — again — wrong.
“I was out for a run around the beginning of April and my back began to hurt,” she said. “In time, the back spasms were getting worse and more frequent.
“We saw the doctor — he said the leukemia was back.”
The fight of her life was back on.
“I’d been through it before, but it was really hard,” Haering said. “I cried a lot more the second time around and I was really mad that I had to go through it again.”
Her oncologist, Dr. David Messinger, provided the options — three more years of chemotherapy, or a transplant. However, the choices came with a caveat: The chemo might not work.
“He said that the transplant was the best option since we had already been through the chemotherapy once,” Haering said. “The transplant is not offered the first time around since it costs so much.”
The procedure is expected to keep her in the hospital for up to six weeks as she recovers from the transplant.
“We have to wait for the new healthy cells to grow,” Haering noted.
After that, it’s a matter of moving back into a usual life, hopefully unburdened by the presence of leukemia.
“I’ve learned to live with this and have to take this as it comes,” Haering said. “This transplant is going to be hard, but I will be better when it’s done.”
For more information on Ann Haering, or to make a donation to the “Friends of Ann Haering” fund, log on to www.annhaering.org.