By Dan Harkins
PORT ORANGE - Not long after Nathan Grant started to walk, he started to limp.
By Aug. 5, the two-year-old couldn't even stand any more. That's when an x-ray and blood work revealed Nathan had leukemia. His family rushed home that day and packed for his first of several stays at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women and Children.
"It was heartbreaking, scary," said his mom, Jennifer Grant, 32, who's taken this year off from teaching at Chisholm Elementary in New Smyrna Beach to devote to her son and his frenzied schedule of appointments. "It was kind of a fear of the unknown. You hear about leukemia all the time, but we didn't know much about it."
After a week of tests, doctors diagnosed Nathan with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is a lesser risk than other types of the disease but requires some of the most exhaustive chemotherapy regimens.
"His treatment will take place over the next three and a half years," Ms. Grant said, "but his is the most treatable type so that was a little bit of a relief to us."
Last week, after his first phase of chemotherapy was completed, a bone marrow scan discovered his leukemia had already gone into remission. But that good news is tempered with the reality the treatments must continue, as must his constant isolation from the world.
Nathan's grandmother, Kathy Stevens, said that's been the hardest part.
"He's been isolated because his resistance was so low," Ms. Stevens said. "Not being able to see him has been the worst."
But it's a precaution that' must be obeyed, Ms. Grant said. A few weeks ago, Nathan was hospitalized after suffering constipation. Last week, he was admitted again to Arnold Palmer just for running a fever.
"It was just a low-grade fever," she said, "but with children who don't have adequate immune systems, every little thing, they strictly monitor."
Nathan's father, Rob Grant, 42, kept his job with the U.S. Postal Service, but one income doesn't make ends meet.
"We have decent insurance," Ms. Grant said, "but we've only been a month-and-a-half into his treatments and already we've got $1,400 in co-pays."
Friends and family have stepped up to help them cope.
A Labor Day fundraiser at World of Beer ended some of the co-pay pressure. A barrel racing fundraiser last weekend at King Palm Arena ended some more of the strain.
"People are just coming out from everywhere," said Ms. Stevens, who didn't even enlist her fellow barrel racers to help.
"They just called and said we're gong to help and took it from there," she said.
Dean Feller, a barrel racing friend of Ms. Stevens, said he had to help organize a fundraiser when he heard about the Grants' ordeal.
"It's just one of those things we felt we had to do," he said. "We thought of our own kids and felt compelled to do this right away."
The struggle is just beginning for Nathan, though. His mother is comforted, at least, that he seems to be getting used to the routine.
"Even in here he's still playing and laughing," she said last week from his room at Arnold Palmer. "At his weekly doctor visits, he used to scream just with the doctor looking at him. Now, even when they're taking blood, he just puts his arm out and lays there. He just lets them do their thing. He's my trooper."
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