‘Thinks he’s going there to play’

When Grant Harding tears through his family’s Morgantown home, he seems like any other 4-year-old boy.

He runs and jumps and scampers over the furniture. He laughs at his own jokes and makes goofy noises when he plays.

“If you see him walk around, you wouldn’t even know that anything’s going on,” said David Harding, Grant’s father.

But hidden from sight, Grant’s body is fighting intensely to overcome cancer. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012 and has ongoing treatment that will last for at least another year.

Jill and David Harding noticed there was something wrong with their son 2½ years ago. Grant was limping badly, and when the Hardings took him to the doctor, it was suspected to be a buildup of infection in his hip joint.

When the limping got worse, the Hardings took their son to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health to get blood drawn. Additional scans and tests indicated that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Grant’s bone marrow was producing too many white blood cells, which crowd out healthy blood cells and compromises the immune system.

They learned that the cause of the limp was that Grant’s bones were becoming so full of leukemic cells that it was putting pressure on the bone.

“It comes on quick, and if it’s not dealt with, the consequences come quick,” David Harding said.

The best way to deal with it was through chemotherapy. Grant completed an aggressive regimen of drugs that killed the leukemia cells but also caused nerve damage and made his hair fall out. Steroids to boost his body’s systems made him gain weight.

But with the most intense rounds of chemotherapy behind, Grant has been feeling better, David Harding said.

Grant is in what his father calls “a maintenance phase.” He will continue to receive mild chemotherapy through April 2016, a 12-week cycle of visits to Riley Hospital for Children that rotates between blood draws, medications through his port, spinal taps and monitoring for leukemia cells.

He takes medications every night that attack the cancer cells, and antibiotics on the weekends to prevent infections.

Because the chemotherapy hurts the nerve endings in his feet and hands, Grant has been going to physical therapy every two weeks. His parents take him to Bloomington’s Children’s Therapy Center at Indiana University Health to work on balance, grasping and playing.

Grant can scramble up into a treehouse built inside the center, walk foot-over-foot on a balance beam and run up stairs.

“We want to try to keep the neuropathy at bay, to keep it from getting worse,” David Harding said. “He doesn’t even think it’s therapy, he just thinks he’s going there to play.”

The Harding File

Grant Harding

Home: Morgantown

Age: 4

Parents: David and Jill Harding

Cancer: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.