Junk food. Vending machine food. Hospital food.
It was a steady diet of bad food and worry.
Aden was three when doctors discovered he had cancer, Wilms disease, which began either in utero or in the months after birth as a tumor in a kidney and spread to his lungs. Stage 4.
Harrington said she and her husband, Scott, decided Aden should take part in a study that looked at the results of light chemotherapy and no radiation for the disease, which is one of the more curable cancers.
It worked for nine months.
But then in May of last year, the cancer returned and the whole weight of modern American medicine was applied to Aden’s case.
Almost a week of hospitalization for chemotherapy every three weeks.
“You lose sleep and eat and this becomes the normal routine,” she said.
But she learned from a nutritionist who was treating her mother that there could be more to the protocol than medicine. He encouraged certain healthier foods and nutritional supplements.
They decided to give it a try.
Aden never developed the sores common with chemotherapy, Mrs. Harrington said. She doesn’t know for sure it was the supplements but the other children did develop sores.
“This whole time we were trying to get Aden healthy, and I realized I needed to get healthy, too,” she said.
The woman who describes herself as a meat and potatoes girl became a vegetarian. She read books on the subject and ate tofu and actually started cooking for the family, which she said, she didn’t do before.
“Meal by meal, day by day,” she said.
And she started running. She had never been a runner before. She owns a highly sedentary business, a web development and marketing firm. She grew up in Simpsonville, where her father, Ray Guenthner, served on City Council. He runs the acoustic cafe Coffee Underground.
Harrington, 37, met her husband after she graduated from University of South Carolina and he from Winthrop. Scott Harrington, 41, works as a server at Rick Erwin’s.
Nine months ago, she started her regimen.
Tuesday, she returned from a four-day trip to Alaska, where she ran a half marathon and raised $3,500 for Children’s Security Blanket, a Spartanburg organization that provides essential items to families of children with cancer.
She chose the organization because most money raised for cancer goes to research and she knows the financial burden families face. She remembers talking to a woman in the hallway at Greenville Memorial Children’s Hospital who said all her daughter wanted to eat that day – when she was undergoing chemotherapy – was Chic Fil-A. But she couldn’t afford it.
Mrs. Harrington said Aden’s hospital bills are the equivalent of two car payments. And they have good insurance.
She chose Alaska because she decided if she was going to put that much effort into health, she was going to have the reward of going someplace she’d never been. The whole family went and the weather was cold and rainy.
Except on race day.
The temperature was 59 and the sun was shining. Bold blue sky hovered overhead.
It was a family event with 2K races for children that she found heartwarming.
She ran the whole way – 13.1 miles.
“Aden’s run his race. Now I’ve run mine. Mission accomplished,” she said.
Aden turned six on Aug. 28. He is cancer free. He started first grade at First Presbyterian.
Caroline Harrington has started a non-profit organization to educate families about healthy eating and supplements during cancer treatment. For information go to www.doeverything.org.