A lot has been taken from 3-year-old Hannah Keehr during the 14 months she's undergone treatment for stage IV neuroblastoma: her hair, her high-frequency hearing, and her ability – at least for the time being – to have a normal childhood. But there's one thing Hannah hasn't let go of, according to her mom, Christa Keehr. Her spirit. (Not to mention her powers of persuasion.)
That came in especially handy one recent Tuesday at Mayo Clinic's Proton Beam Facility in Rochester. That day, Randy Mc Keeman, a child life specialist, and Ben Tempel, one of Hannah's nurses, showed up in the waiting room wearing tutus. (Really.) Mc Keeman explains, "I'd seen a YouTube video about another children's hospital that has 'Tutu Tuesdays,' so I thought I'd test the water to see if that would be something that would work here at Mayo, too." He adds that he just so happened to have "a bag of donated tutus" handy. (We should all be so lucky.)
They had a matching tutu for Hannah. And Mc Keeman tells us that after Hannah excitedly put on the tutu, she was off and running. "In usual Hannah fashion, she immediately started pretending she was our ballet instructor and we were her students," he says. "She made us do twirls and spins right there in the waiting room, while teaching us how to do them all correctly." By "correctly," Mc Keeman notes, he means "Hannah's way."
Though the moment was brief, Christa says it provided some much needed relief (and laughter) from what's been a stressful time. "It's been tough," she says of Hannah's cancer treatments at Mayo. "We have an 8-year-old son, too, and we're trying to keep life as normal as possible for him. That's difficult, but we try, because it's what you do. It's how you get your kids back to health."
Christa tells us Hannah's care team has been doing an exceptionally good job of helping Hannah get through treatment with diversions like Tutu Tuesday. "That's the biggest part of why she's done so well at Proton Beam because to her, it's a fun place to go," Christa says. "We'll go there, she'll see her friends, she'll play, she'll sleep through her treatments, and then she'll wake up and play some more before we go home. She loves going there."
And her care team loves having her. So much so that Tempel says they don't think twice about doing things like wearing tutus for her. "Hannah's quite a dynamic, funny and happy-go-lucky kid," he tells us. "She's been through a lot … yet she's able to persevere and go through all of her treatment challenges with a playful and resilient attitude. She really is one of a kind."