The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

January 30, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Inspirational story shared with the world

MORGANTOWN — When the letter arrived at the “Today Show” offices of Hoda Kotb and Kathy Lee Gifford at NBC-TV, it was certain to capture the attention of Kotb.

It was, after all, from Ashley Calvary of Morgantown, which was where Kotb grew up after having been born in Norman, Okla., and the topic of the letter was how Calvary’s mother, Kathi Hahn, wife of West Virginia University assistant men’s basketball coach Billy Hahn, had twice beaten cancer.

As a breast cancer survivor herself, Kotb was caught up in the possibilities, invited the mother/daughter combination to New York to share their inspirational story with the world … and if you can’t be inspired by this story you are lacking much in the way emotions.

The story began in 2007, when Kathi was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent two surgeries and chemotherapy, both of which worked so that by spring she was in remission.

To celebrate, the family went off to South Carolina on vacation, but what should have been a joyous time soon turned dark.

“Our vacation came to an abrupt halt one day when my mom called to me from across the beach house in a concerned voice,” Ashley wrote in her letter to Today. “When I walked into the bathroom I found my mom standing in a mirror examining a lump on her neck.”

After seeking three opinions all agreed on the diagnosis.

She was suffering from leukemia.

She could have caved in right then. Instead, she was ready to battle.

“She told everybody she was an overachiever,” Ashley wrote in her letter to the show. “She told everybody she got the leukemia so soon after the ovarian cancer so that she could get it over with and be done with it all.”

After several rounds of chemotherapy, she went into remission.   But next some bad news would come.

To survive she needed a bone marrow transplant, but no one in her family was a match.

Doctors at Ruby Memorial Hospital put Kathi on the International Bone Marrow Registry and conducted a successful search, going even beyond their greatest expectations.

“Nobody matched me, so they put me on the international list,” Kathi said. “A woman in Germany was a 10 out of 10, a perfect match.”

“The lady (donor) said that her daughter told her, ‘Mom, I’m so scared,’” Ashley explained. “She said, ‘You know what, I’m going to save someone else’s mom.’ And that’s exactly what she did. A complete stranger saved my Mom, and we are forever grateful.”

There was one force driving Kathi throughout her treatment.

“My Mom’s main goal through all she went through was to dance at my wedding … and dance she did. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” Ashley said.

“I think every single person there was in tears,” Kathi added. “It was like a group hug dance. It was wonderful.”

Kathi pointed out how easy it is to be a bone marrow donor.

“It’s not hard to be a bone marrow donor,” Kathi explained. “The test is like a cheek swab. That’s it. They do that to see if you are a match. If you are a match, they draw blood. That’s it.”

Kathi was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2008, and underwent chemo and then a search for a donor before finding her donor in Dusseldorf, Germany, leading to the surgery in February 2009.

It took a lot of people to get Kathi Hahn through her ordeal.

“Thank God for Nine-West at Ruby Memorial Hospital and Dr. Michael Craig,” Kathi said.

One day, Hahn brought his whole basketball team in to see his wife.

“Dr. Craig said to them, ‘I’m going to tell you this now, get the hell out if you’re not in it to win it.’ Well, they left,” Kathi said. “They all left. Ashley and I were there going ‘Oh, my God.’ Then they all came back with WVU TV shirts on.”

“In honor of Kathi’s story, Gifford collaborated with another song writer and wrote a song entitled “You Need a Miracle.” Broadway performer Danielle Williamson sang the song live on “Today.”

The “Today Show” also gave the Hahns plane tickets so they can go to Dusseldorf, Germany, to meet the donor.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU punter turns heads at linebacker

    They call him “Huey the Punter.”
    His real name is Houstin Syvertson. His real position is not punter. Not anymore, anyway.
    To be honest, until Saturday’s spring game, not many people following West Virginia football knew the name or the nickname. They know it now.

    April 13, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads