From Chemo to Championship

Steve McKinionUncategorized28 Comments

Last week was remarkable. Wednesday Harrison had his monthly visit to the hospital for Vincristine, a terrible toxin that is helping him beat leukemia. He hates Vincristine because of the severe pain he gets in his knees and ankles. It’s punishing.

He also started a five-day pulse of steroids. I hate the steroids even more than he does. His mood changes and his appetite becomes insatiable. It’s the drug that gives leukemia patients their “moon face.”

The next morning he went to the dentist. Yep, two cavities. The chemo weakens bones, teeth, and enamel. Just part of what makes having cancer horrible for these kids.

To have his cavities filled he had to take an antibiotic to prevent infection due to his immunosuppresion. More medicine. More danger. Par for the course.

Raleigh Family Photographer

Thursday night he played in a baseball game. How? I’ll never know. His determination is simply beyond my understanding. I would have wanted to rest on the couch all night. It took two extra innings to win, as well. It was a long night for Harrison.

Friday morning he had two cavities filled and one tooth pulled. It was his first time ever to have dental work other than cleanings done. He was sick from the medicine and spent the day on the couch resting for, you guessed it, the semi-final game of his baseball tournament.

The chemo had really kicked in. He was fatigued and nauseas. Torrential rains came that caused the game to be suspended in the second inning. I was grateful that he would get some rest.

Saturday morning we left the house at 8:00 for a 9:15 game and didn’t get home until almost 6:00.  I don’t know how he does it. He just had to get there early for some batting practice. The game continued and his team had a sizable lead.

But his opponents mounted a serious comeback. In the final inning Harrison’s team was up by one run. The bases were loaded. One out. Tying run on third.

And Harrison came in to pitch. I’ll admit I wasn’t too sure about the decision. He has terribly fatigued from the chemo and dental work. He hadn’t rested well the night before. And here was on the mound with the entire season on the line.

He struck out the first batter.

One out from a win. One walk from extra innings (again). One single from a loss.

As could happen only to Harrison, the count went to three balls and one strike. He stepped off the back of the mound and took a deep breath. Fast ball at the knees for strike two. Full count. Bases loaded. One pitch would decide the game.

With ice-water running through his veins he went into his wind-up. Leg kick. Stride. Fast ball at the knees. STRIKE THREE. Fans, players, and coaches went crazy.

But Harrison just pumped his fist and shook hands with his opponents. He knew there was still a job to do. The season isn’t over until you lose or you win the championship game. No one gets a trophy for second place.

He and his teammates had another two and a half hours until the championship game. He watched the other semi-final game and later gave me his scouting report. Honestly, he could coach his own team.

The championship game was nip and tuck. The lead changed nearly every inning. You could not write the story any better than it evolved. The bottom of the final inning. Harrison’s team leading by one run. Two runners on base. Two outs. The other team’s biggest hitter at the plate. He already had most of his team’s RBIs.  Harrison on the mound.

His mother was nearly in tears.  But not Harrison.  He thrives in situations like this.  Any coach who passes on this kid will be just plain stupid.

Harrison started him off with a fast ball that was slightly down for a ball. The next pitch was down the middle for strike one. Another strike on the inside corner at the knees. One-two Harrison threw some chin music up and in, backing the hitter off the plate. Without any instruction from the coach he then went low and away. What a mind for the game. [I know too many high school pitchers that wouldn’t know to do that]. But the hitter didn’t bite, pushing the count to 2-2.

Knowing the batter was advanced, Harrison wanted to keep it low, but he was just a little too low.

Full count. Two outs. Best hitter at the plate. Tying run on second. Winning run on first.

Harrison looked over the top of his glove to find the catcher’s mitt. No turning back…

The pitch was a fast ball slightly off the plate and down, but the hitter couldn’t resist. Game over.

This time Harrison threw his glove in the air, raced to chest bump his catcher, then fled his teammates into the outfield where they chased him for a dogpile.

I think it was the first time I saw Harrison smile all day.

Look into his face during a game and all you will see it determination. No time to rest. No time to feel sorry for yourself. No time to worry about chemo or needles or pills or leukemia cells. There is no cancer on the baseball field. Just boys playing the world’s greatest game.

And Harrison is just one of those boys. He isn’t a cancer kid. He isn’t the sick kid. He’s just the kid.  The kid who helped his teammates to a championship.

And on that day he became a champion on the baseball field.

Of course, every day he’s a champion to me.

28 Comments on “From Chemo to Championship”

  1. Love this story! Thanks so much for sharing! Congrats to Harrison and his team! I’m telling you this C stuff makes you stronger and able to enjoy every minute of things like that spectacular baseball game! Take care and hugs to all of you!

  2. Thank you for sharing the details of the past week and the games, for allowing us to be a part of your journey with your family. Everyone who reads this post is cheering along with you for Harrison, and is inspired by him. Our hero, for sure.

  3. What an inspiration! I have to let Matthew know!!! We keep you in our prayers. Thank you for sharing! Awesome job Harrison!!!!

  4. Your blog posts are inspiring and you are such a good writer. You capture the spirit of Harrison well. You are so lucky to have each other as you all seem like a truly loving and bonded family. We are lucky to catch a glimpse of your family and your fight. I thank you for sharing some inspiration and perspective on life with us and letting us in to add our prayers to your family and especially Harrison!

    1. You are so kind, Tanya. I hope you guys have a great rest of the summer. Thanks again for letting Blakely play with you guys.

  5. Dr McKinion,

    I read this with tears in my eyes as a 46 yr old man who just went through a scare last week with possible kidney cancer & have been put on a list to go back this December for another review to re-check the cyst. When I was given the first diagnosis before I went for a second opinion – I thought of the post I read of young Harrison’s courage & strength – I continue to pray for him weekly! Thanks for the constant updates and tell Harrison he is being used not only to be “the kid” but to be an encourager to others for King Jesus! Great job Harrison!

    1. Robert,

      My dad had a kidney removed a numbers of years ago due to renal cancer and is doing just great. I’ll pray the cyst is a mere irritation. Blessings to you.

  6. Steve, thank you for sharing Harrison’s amazing story – he is truly an inspiration and I’ve been blessed by following his journey. I’m praying for all of you and for Harrison to fully recover. God is good! And may He continue to bless Harrison – beyond measure.

    Your cousin in Texas,

    Susan Driskell Ruddy

    1. Thanks, Susan. He’s truly been an inspiration. And continues to be every day. Glad you are well.

  7. What a wonderful story. Baseball is therapeutic in so many ways. It certainly helped us to survive our

    challenging year while Carmen was unemployed. God is good and baseball is one of His great gifts! We continue to pray for Harrison at the Lozaw Lodge! Susan

  8. Great story Steve. Congrats to Harrison and his team. Been through a similar experience with Sam.

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  11. Felt like I was right there in the stands… Cheering, crying, shaking my head in disbelief (and hope)… What a wonderful boy… a young man… with a great support system and the love and grace of God to pull him through. Blessings to Harrison and to the entire McKinion family.

  12. Steve, so many people have raved about this piece to me. We are all praying there is a book coming. At the height of the season this article seems to be used by a lot of baseball moms.
    It is written beautifully. I was inspired for many reasons beyond baseball. So many times the small things get me down at age 65. I need Harrison to put the reality back in my life.

    1. Mrs. Sylvia,

      Lord willing, there will be a book available this fall. You’ll be on the short list, I promise. Even though we don’t see you but a few times a year, your constant encouragement and notes that you are praying for Harrison mean more to use than we could ever say. Thanks for your kindness.

  13. Steve-
    Thanks for sharing. You have a warrior there. Cancer doesn’t stand a chance. Harrison and your family will stay in our prayers. God will see him through this.
    Scot

  14. Wow! I’m riding down the road and sobbing! I learned about Harrison when he first became sick after hearing you preach at our church. I have prayed for Harrison often and will continue now. What an awesome little man of God he is! He’s is such an inspiration to me and touches my heart! I am praying for supernatural healing ! Love watching God work through Harrison ! And…your writing is phenomenal! Praying and believing.

  15. I read this out loud to my family today, including two of my boys who are budding baseball players themselves, and found myself choking back tears considering Harrison’s maturity and and ability to see beyond the cancer. I cannot even imagine. I found myself identifying with Ginger, as a mom hurting for her son, and yet I have never faced anything close to this kind of hurt. We marvel, as a family, at Christ’s strength and grace and joy in your family and pray that He will shine brightly through this. Thank you for sharing such a moving story and congratulations, Harrison!! Oh, and will you put us on your short list too when your book is completed?!

  16. I prayed 🙏🏻 for Harrison when I heard the news…and when I read what God had done this week… Thru Harrison…I marveled! Such a beautiful answer to prayer of extraordinary perseverance in response to HARD circumstances…our God Of Wonder performed one miracle after another…💗…Thru Harrison…Amazing power, grit, love and grace!

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