For these two Children’s of Alabama patients, Hannah Acton and Logan Whitehead, a story of disease turned into a story of love. After meeting at Smile-A-Mile as children, these two are now engaged. Read more about their story below.
At age 2, Hannah Acton was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which is a cancer that affects white blood cells.
“It all started with a severe cold,” Hannah said. “My brother and I both had colds, and while he was getting better after a couple of days, I wasn’t.”
Hannah’s aunt took her to the emergency room at Children’s of Alabama just to be safe. “I ended up with a blood transfusion and getting an official ALL diagnosis,” Hannah said. “That started my two years of treatment.”
Upon diagnosis, Hannah started her journey in Children’s childhood cancer survivorship program, Taking on Life After Cancer (TLC). Before her third birthday, Hannah got involved with Smile-A-Mile, formerly known as Camp Smile-A-Mile, whose year-round programs help Alabama children affected by cancer thrive during treatment and the years beyond. At age 5, she participated in her first weeklong camp session by herself.
When Logan was 12 years old, he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
Prior to diagnosis, Logan felt fatigued constantly. He also bruised easily. “At the time I played soccer, so my doctor kept saying that my symptoms were just from that,” Logan said. “The doctor completely dismissed it. But I kept getting sicker and sicker.”
In need of a second opinion, Logan was transferred to Children’s from his hometown of Gulf Shores.
“They strongly suspected leukemia and immediately sent me up to Birmingham in an ambulance,” he said. “The doctor was there waiting on me that night when I arrived.”
Logan quickly began treatment, and he endured six rounds of chemotherapy over the span of a few months.
“My doctor, Dr. Coleman Bryan, was amazing,” Logan said. “He took care of me like I was his own. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful of a man he was. I was in the hospital for 47 straight days. My family really got me through it, and the doctors and nurses were fantastic.”
When Hannah met Logan…
Like Hannah, Logan participated in Smile-A-Mile year-round programs. “The camp is such a wonderful place,” Logan said. “There’s no judgment because everyone there has been through similar circumstances. There is so much hope at Smile-A-Mile. There is so much love you feel from the minute you step off the bus.”
At age 9, Hannah met Logan at a camp session. “He had just gotten off treatment and we were at the same summer camp,” Hannah said. “We met there and have been friends ever since.”
Logan and Hannah’s love grew from being friends through Smile-A-Mile programming to an engagement. After three years of dating, Logan proposed to Hannah earlier this year at a Smile-A-Mile event.
Both 22-year-old Logan and 19-year-old Hannah still participate in Smile-A-Mile programs—now in the young adults group—and volunteer as summer camp counselors. When they wed in early 2018, it will be at Children’s Harbor, where they first met.
Children’s Harbor is a separate organization that provides the use of their facility for Smile-A-Mile’s summer camp sessions.
“Smile-A-Mile means a lot to the both of us,” Hannah said. “We love the camp, and everyone there is like family to us. We realize the important role the camp played in our lives. Had we not both endured cancer, we never would have been there and never would have met. It’s a special place.”
Said Logan, “While cancer was one of the worst things I’ve ever been through, without it I never would have gone to camp or met Hannah. I wouldn’t trade my diagnosis because I ended up gaining so much because of it.”
Smile-A-Mile’s mission is to provide hope, healing of the spirit and love for the whole family during the childhood cancer journey. Through year-round meaningful and educational programming, Smile-A-Mile helps those in Alabama who are affected by childhood cancer thrive during treatment and the years beyond. Learn more here.