PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

November 18, 2013

PA boy battles cancer, provides strength to others

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

— A Port Arthur boy battling cancer has become a source of emotional strength for his family.

DaSean Harmanson, 7, is undergoing treatment at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston for medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

With three surgeries behind him and radiation and chemotherapy in his immediate future, DaSean remains pretty much upbeat. His mother, TaKilwa Harmanson, said he pushes her every day and gives her energy and his Granny, Noel Ozen-Brown, said he has promised he will “wrestle” with her when he is released from the hospital.

The journey toward his diagnosis came from the persistence of his parents, who kept telling doctors that something just wasn’t right. A typical rough-and-tumble boy, DaSean enjoys playing football and jumping on the trampoline and is normally very active, so when he began growing tired easily, going to bed early and not wanting to get up for school in the morning, the parents took notice. DaSean’s eating habits also changed and he began losing weight.

“The next week the tiredness continued, then he began to vomit every morning,” Harmanson said by phone.

Several rounds of blood tests were done on different occasions, none of which showed anything abnormal, she said. Then one day during football practice, he had a frightening experience.

“He blacked out. I asked him ‘what do you mean?’ He said ‘Momma, it seems like my eyes are closed but they’re not really closed,’” the mother said.

Harmanson went to a local hospital, where she told the physicians to perform more extensive tests and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“They came back and said ‘Mom, you were right. He has something on the back of his brain that’s not supposed to be there,” she said. “He went from zero to 100 so fast. Thank God we noticed the changes in our son.

DaSean was sent to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where, in late September, he underwent his first procedure, which took about eight hours. During that time, his heart rate began to drop, so surgeons decided to split the procedure into two surgeries to reduce the fluid forming on his brain and bring his heart rate back to normal.

Three days later was the major surgery to remove two tumors from his brain. A small portion of one of the tumors was left because of its proximity to DaSean’s brain stem, she said. Additional testing performed recently showed cancer cells in his spinal fluid.

Last week the child began vomiting again and suffering headaches, and he underwent another procedure to remove fluid that had built up in his brain.

He must now go through six to eight weeks of radiation, then months of chemotherapy.

“It upset me because I know there’s a lot he wants to do, but you can’t question God about anything,” she said. “He (DaSean) is giving me my energy. I have stopped a lot of crying and am now praying. This will be a long journey; the whole process can take eight months.”

His father, Lesley Harmanson, an Army veteran, was stationed in Iraq. The mother said DaSean’s attitude is helping both parents keep their chin up.

His grandmother called DaSean a strong individual.

“He calls me Granny, he tries to pamper me,” Ozen-Brown said. “He tells me ‘Granny, as soon as I get better, we’ll wrestle. He’s strong for all of us.”

DaSean has two sisters and an older brother and is very happy when he is able to go home on weekends. He can no longer attend school because of the illness and treatment.

“It’s hard on me and his dad,” the mother said. “I still kind of feel guilty that I can’t be there for my children because our son needs us more at this time.”

The parents are receiving help with the other children from family members and spend the week in Houston. Then on Monday mornings they get up early, return to Houston and radiation treatments starts at 7 a.m., she said.

An account has been set up at 5 Point Credit Union to assist the family of DaSean. Donations may be made to Account No. 4455192.

DaSean will celebrate his eighth birthday on Nov. 27 — the day before Thanksgiving. Harmanson said the family is planning to do something big for DaSean’s birthday.

Harmanson is “claiming” through God that her son is healed and he will walk out of the hospital cancer free after his treatments are completed.

“It’s a long process (treatments) but what keeps me going is what’s on the other side — he’s gonna be better than before. He’s already a strong person, and he will be stronger after this,” she said. “He asked me ‘momma, why am I going through this? I said ‘don’t worry baby, God only picks his strongest.’”

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews