In August 2004, Bethany Hartung was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She was 19 years old and just three days from returning back to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota to begin her Sophomore year in Environmental Studies.
Throughout the next year, Bethany received eight rounds of chemo and was in remission, returning to her college to speak at the Relay for Life event in April of 2005, and to full time studies in August. Her zest for raising awareness about young adults affected by cancer did not go unnoticed by her primary oncologist, Dr. Brandon Hayes-Lattin, who asked her to work with the organizers of the upcoming inaugural Portland, OR LIVESTRONG ride. She returned home in September to take part in the ride that raised the seed funding to start the first (and only) Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program in Oregon.
Bethany plunged head long into work-study, school, orchestra and her many activities at Gustavus, all the while receiving daily chemo and weekly blood work and steroid treatments at the Mayo clinic in Mankato. And by the end of 2006, Bethany had caught up to her class and was on track to graduate in 2007. After changing her major to sociology, a decision heavily influenced by her time at OHSU, her desire was to be come a medical social worker.
In the summer of 2006, the whole family gathered at a favorite and special location to celebrate Bethany’s returning health. While there, however, she began to feel ill and show many of the symptoms that had come at the onset of her Leukemia. The family returned to OHSU to discover Bethany had relapsed. Bethany’s spirit persevered through more chemo, surgery for chloroma and a side effect that caused severe neuropathy in her legs, causing her to use a braces and sometimes a walker. First with complications and then for a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor, Bethany spent her days in the hospital from September until the end of November.
Once home, to celebrate the holidays and heal, Bethany began the journey through the crucial first 100 days post her transplant. But in March 2007, she relapsed, never able to reach remission to use the second unit of transplant cells from the donor. In April, Bethany decided to enter palliative and hospice care. In May, she received an amazing treat from the Dream Foundation; a trip to Cailifornia to meet Ellen DeGeneres, who had cheered her hospital stay with her comedy each afternoon. The staff at OHSU pitched in and got Bethany a town car tour through Hollywood and Beverly Hills and lunch at the Polo Lounge. Accompanied by the OHSU Center for Hematologic Malignancies Nurse Coordinator, Lisa Kruse, to keep an eye on Bethany’s health, her mom, Toni and she had a blast.
From California, Bethany flew to Minnesota to receive an honorary degree from her college, who held a private graduation ceremony for her, complete with all her friends, professors and administrators in attendance.
Bethany returned home to spend time with her family, becoming the family social director. She lived well and fully until her death on June 24, 2007.
Bethany’s zest for life, fun and passion to raise awareness about adolescents and young adults affected by cancer is honored and continues through the annual Notes of Hope concert.